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GP Week : Issue 70
CO-DRIVER Jarmo Lehtinen reckoned it was when the bonnet of Hirvonen's Rally GB car flew open in mid stage. The bracket did not break in the normal way, and this meant the bonnet completely obliterated Mikko Hirvonen's view. Usually, he said, the bonnet flies up and leaves a narrow slit through which a driver can plot his course along the stage. Usually? Well, yes. Losing bonnets is quite a regular occurrence at Ford. Latvala had a moment of hindered vision during Rally Argentina but the bonnet flew away and he carried on at full speed. One rally later Henning Solberg had the same experience. One rally later still, Henning's car was brought back to the Service Park sans bonnet and both front guards and a lot of evidence of his road collision, but that was not quite the same. There are many who believe that Hirvonen's bonnet problem cost him the chance to fight for the lead of the Rally GB and any chance of the title -- but Ford once employed a driver who never let a stray windscreen worry him. Markko Martin had a bonnet fly up in Finland, the fastest rally of the championship and still won the Neste Rally in 2003! What really gave Loeb his sixth title? Was it Hirvonen's bonnet incident, or the way that Hirvonen did not get to grips with the Crychan or Eppynt stages in Day 2? Or maybe did something happen much earlier in the season that ultimately cost him? Did it all go wrong for Mikko because Ford were too nice? They allowed his teammate Jari Matti Latvala to win the Sardinia Rally even though they had a perfect opportunity to give second placed Hirvonen two extra points by asking Latvala to cede victory. It was by one point that Loeb beat Hirvonen the title. But this was no isolated case. In 1992, Lancia's kindness in letting occasional number-three team member Andrea Aghini win Sanremo Rally was strong evidence of a misplaced overconfidence that one Lancia driver, Kankkunen or Auriol, would ultimately win the drivers' title. They had completely misjudged the impending end-of-season charge by Toyota driver Carlos Sainz who in the end swept past both drivers to take the championship ... Deja 'non-Vue' in GB SWEDISH Rally driver Ingvar Carlsson has died unexpectedly at the age of 62. He was best known for his long association with the Mazda World Championship Rally Team from 1984 till the end of the MRTE programme in 1991, during which time he won the world championship drivers' only rallies in 1989 in Sweden and New Zealand. He also won the inaugural non- championship Rally Australia the year before. Born at Orebro just eight months after Stig Blomqvist was born in the same town, Ingvar was a leading Swedish driver in demand especially on events such as the Swedish and the RAC Rally, then on rallies further afield in Europe. His esteem in central European rallies came on the 1987 Monte Carlo when he made fastest time on the iconic Chartreuse stage, ahead of the full Lancia, Ford and Audi team drivers. Eventually two of his most important successes were the other side of the world He had competed with the official Datsun, Fiat, BMW, Mercedes teams before moving on to Mazda, with whom he won his first world rally at the age of 41. He was extremely quiet by nature. Foreign people assumed this was a nervousness in speaking English, but this was his character. His long time co-driver Per (no relation) Carlsson said he felt that Ingvar could have had many other professional rally drives if only he had been less shy: "He was always happy to be rally driving but never gave himself the chance to push for more opportunities. Winning the Swedish Rally was the big turning point in his life. It was a shock for him when the Mazda contract eventually came to an end." Ingvar's final competition was on the classic car 2008 Midnight Car Rally. VALE: Swedish legend Ingvar Carlsson What was it that ultimately cost Hirvonen the crown? WRC news >> 17