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GP Week : Issue 143
21 WRC NEWS >> CITROEN Racing Director Olivier Quesnel announced at a Press conference at Versailles on Wednesday that Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have been given a two-year agreement as WRC team-mates to Sebastien Loeb, starting at Monte Carlo 2012. He confirmed that Loeb’s 2011 teammates – driver Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia – had been prematurely “given their freedom”, notwithstanding the currency of an ongoing contract with the team (for more, see our Rally features pages). Hirvonen was absent from the press conference but Loeb stated he had been aware of ongoing negotiations with the Finn but had not been asked to give an opinion about the decision. He stated that working with a Finnish driver was going to be a new experience: “It will be quite special to have a Finnish driver in the team. Certainly Mikko is someone with whom we have got along well”. The last time a Finn drove an official Citroen rally car is believed to be the late Henri Toivonen in a CX2400 at the end of the ‘70s. M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson has subsequently commented, that Hirvonen’s departure from the Ford world championship team was a sad occasion: “I will miss him. Except for one year (at Subaru) he has been a Ford driver since 2003. We had a special bond and I am not looking forward to seeing him in red overalls. We have had happy years together. I classed him as my second son. He was a very important ingredient to Ford winning the world championship in 2006 and ‘07. The situation however is clear. There was an option for him to continue with us but that has expired. We are not in a position to arrange a deal with him. I fully understand his position. He is still only 31 years old and had to think about his career”. Wilson confirmed that continuing uncertainty as to if and how Ford will be able to continue supporting a world championship team in 2012 has meant that Sebastien Ogier never received an offer to drive for Ford. The suggestion of a team swop between Ogier and Hirvonen is, seemingly, no more than a media myth. Hirvonen replaces sacked Ogier at Citroen