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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Ford’s Finns seek Finnish hat-trick

Ford's Flying Finns are bidding for a Rally Finland hat-trick this weekend.

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Top for Ford: Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth

Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed a maiden victory on their home event in 2009 for Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila followed their tyre tracks to win last year.

Victory for a Finn in Rally Finland, which began yesterday and ends tomorrow, elevates them to superstar status in a country where rallying is second only to ice hockey in popularity.

For Latvala, winning the iconic event in his Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car would spark a double celebration as this will be the 26-year-old’s 100th WRC start, the youngest driver in the sport’s history to reach the milestone.

Hirvonen, too, has his eyes set on a second reason to celebrate. He lives close to the rally base of Jyväskylä and victory would provide the icing on his birthday cake, as he turns 31 on Sunday.

Hirvonen, second in the drivers’ standings, acknowledges he feels an extra buzz ahead of his home rally.

He said: “Rally Finland is special. I’m competing in front of family and friends and it provides an extra boost for me to try to win.”

Latvala completed two days of testing in Finland on Wednesday and said: “The car has become increasingly more stable as the season has progressed and it feels great on the fast roads and jumps.

“To reach 100 starts feels strange. For me, a driver who makes his 100th start has been in the sport a long time, but I’m only 26 and don’t feel I’ve been around a long time. Perhaps I have.”

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr return to the championship for the first time since Rally Italia Sardegna in the team’s third Fiesta RS WRC.

Al Qassimi is nominated for Team Abu Dhabi and will aim to improve on ninth place in 2009, his best Finland result from four starts.

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