Strong Weekend For Ford Motorsport

  • Hirvonen and Lehtinen take third on the Acropolis Rally.
  • Marcus Gronholm took victory at the AWD RallyCross, at Pikes Peak International Raceway in the United States.

19 June 2011 -Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished third in the gruelling Acropolis Rally in Greece after a thrilling final leg.  They hunted down Sébastien Loeb in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally car during a tense battle for second place, and ended just three seconds behind the leaders, after the duel was only decided in the final live TV speed test.

Hirvonen had the fastest overall time during the final leg, based in the hills outside Loutraki, 90km west of Athens.  Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were second quickest in their Fiesta RS WRC, en route to ninth place following a troubled weekend.  The Ford Abu Dhabi drivers won four of today’s five special stages in this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Acropolis is famed as the toughest round of the series.  Rocky gravel mountain tracks and intense heat that reached 35ºC provided a tough challenge for both man and machine throughout the three-day event.  Competitors tackled 18 speed tests covering 348.80km.

Hirvonen restarted fourth, with the leading quartet covered by just 22.4sec.  The 30-year-old Finn climbed to third in the opening test and rapidly closed on Loeb.  He entered the final Power Stage just 2.6sec behind the Frenchman, but was unable to clinch the runner-up place.  Third fastest time in the last test earned him a bonus point for the drivers’ championship, in which Hirvonen remains second.

Latvala was delayed by transmission problems on Friday and turbo failure on Saturday.  However, the 26-year-old Finn maintained a strong pace and after restarting in 11th, he climbed back into the points to finish ninth.  He won three stages to take his tally for the weekend to five.

M-Sport Stobart Ford’s Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor finished fifth, one position ahead of team-mates Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin, who were unsettled by an engine misfire yesterday.  FERM Power Tools drivers Dennis Kuipers / Frederic Miclotte finished 10th while the third M-Sport Stobart car of Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson recovered to claim 12th after retiring on the opening day when he went off the road.  Rene Kuipers / Annemieke Hulzebos were 17th, while Lambros Athanassoulas / Nikolaos Zakheos were 19th after recovering from a first day retirement with broken suspension.  Evgeny Novikov / Denis Giraudet finished 20th, despite retiring with broken suspension in the first leg and again yesterday with a broken alternator belt.  Munchi’s Ford duo Federico Villagra / José Diaz retired with two stages remaining after a return of the engine issues that forced them out yesterday.

Former WRC driver Marcus Gronholm flew the Ford flag at a separate event taking place on the other side of the globe. Gronholm came out to dominate, he topped qualifying and led the final race flag-to-flag, to deliver Ford another Global RallyCross Championship victory in the AWD RallyCross, this time at Pikes Peak International Raceway in the United States.

GRC championship leader Tanner Foust claimed second after his Rockstar Fiesta was punted across the timing line by Michael Jernberg. At first there was uncertainty if either car had finished but RallyCross Race Control confirmed Foust the second place finisher giving Ford and Fiesta a 1-2 finish, a result which is currently under review.