Ex-WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen to do Dakar Rally in X-raid Mini

Former World Rally Championship runner-up Mikko Hirvonen will join the X-raid Mini team for next year's Dakar Rally

Ex-WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen to do Dakar Rally in X-raid Mini

Ahead of the South American marathon, the Finn will contest Baja Aragon in Spain at the end of next week.

Hirvonen, who retired from the WRC at the end of last season, agreed terms with X-raid after testing the team's Mini ALL4 Racing in Morocco.

"Six months ago I didn't know a lot [about Dakar]," said Hirvonen. "Of course, I knew it was a real long-distance race without pace notes and that it's far more about navigation and not so much about driving flat out.

"But now I've been executing long tests with the X-raid Team and I've been lucky to have been teamed-up with my very experienced co-driver, Michel Périn.

"He and the team helped me a lot to get a better picture of what it's all about and the more they tell me, the more I'm getting excited about the challenge."

X-raid team manager Sven Quandt added: "We are really delighted with having succeeded in signing Mikko.

"He certainly will be an asset not only to our team but to the Dakar, too. In the tests in Morocco he delivered in truly impressive style and felt good on the 'new terrain' right from the start.

"Nonetheless, one shouldn't have too high expectations regarding his Dakar debut. Mikko still has to gather a lot of experience as the Dakar is a unique event.

"But on the other hand, Michel is a very experienced co-driver who has got what it takes to support him in many areas."

X-raid has won Dakar for the last four seasons, most recently with Nasser Al-Attiyah, who dominated the event earlier this year.

Hirvonen is intent on using Baja Aragon to gain experience of the car and team ahead of his Dakar debut.

"It's a lot about the experience," he said. "Dakar is such a long race and the dunes there are in a world of their own. So, to finish the event without encountering major problems or without getting stuck anywhere already would represent a really good achievement for my first Dakar.

"The Baja Aragon is going to be more of the kind of rallying I'm used to. But driving without pace notes in your road book is not so easy and I still have to keep on familiarizing myself with the Mini as well.

"But should I feel good in the car and everything works well we hopefully will be able to set some good times in Baja Aragon."

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