Subaru picks Hirvonen

Mikko Hirvonen will replace Richard Burns in Subaru's 2004 World Rally Championship campaign. The young Finn will partner Petter Solberg in the Prodrive team's Impreza

Subaru picks Hirvonen

This follows Friday's news that Colin McRae would not be returning to his old team to replace Burns, who is recovering from a brain tumour. Subaru have rather opted to go with youth - Hirvonen is just 23.

The deal is Hirvonen's second full-time works seat in the WRC. He drove a third car for the Ford factory this season, scoring a best result of sixth on the Acropolis.

"This is such a fantastic opportunity for me," said Hirvonen. "There's so much that I want to achieve as a driver in the WRC and I know that Subaru is the team to help me do that. I can't wait to get in the car and get going."

The signing reverses a trend towards an unusually low number of Finns in the World Championship. Marcus Grönholm was the highest-placed Finnish driver in 2003, but only finished sixth. Until now, Grönholm was going to be the only top-line contender from rallying's spiritual home next year.

"We're very excited to have signed Mikko," said Subaru team principal David Lapworth. "He's a very talented young driver and we have the resources to provide him with the best car and team to help him develop his full potential."

Both Solberg and Hirvonen will begin the year with the 2003-spec Impreza, but the team says the Impreza WRC2004 should make its debut on the season's third round in Mexico.

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