Mikko Hirvonen's performance on the Neste Oil Rally Finland last weekend was just 'incredible', that was the verdict of Ford team director Malcolm Wilson following the ninth round in the World Rally Championship.
While Hirvonen and Ford lost out in the end to Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, it was a close battle and Mikko kept the four-time world champion on his toes throughout the three-days.
Indeed while the 28-year-old ultimately had to settle for the runners-up spot in front of his home supporters, 9 seconds off P1 - something that is a bit of blow to his title aspirations, Wilson Sr added that it will only make Mikko stronger now and more determined in the remaining six events.
"This wasn't the result we were looking for but having lost Jari-Matti [Latvala] so early [after his mistake in the sister car in SS3], it made it more difficult for Mikko because he had to think about both championships,” Wilson Sr reflected.
“He delivered an incredible performance and learned a lot having to battle with Loeb for three days, which will make him stronger. They were 0.5sec/km quicker than the rest of the field and I think Mikko drove better than last year which is a big achievement."
Wilson meanwhile was also pretty pleased with the performance of 'B' team drivers, Henning Solberg and his son Matthew, who finished fifth and ninth respectively for the Stobart squad. Gigi Galli was also going well for the Stobart team, until he went out in SS16, while running third, 7.4 seconds up on his closest challenger.
"It's great to have two Stobart cars in the top-10 of this specialised event. Henning showed really good pace on day 1 but unfortunately lost his rhythm on the second day. But to his credit he still scored a very strong fifth place on one of the fastest events in the WRC,” Malcolm continued.
“Matthew has put in a really solid performance too in terms of learning the event and getting the experience and he hasn't made any mistakes. Some of his splits were really impressive and he showed some great pace on the final day when his confidence was higher. All three crews can take a lot from this event to New Zealand [the next gravel event after the Rallye Deutschland] where the set-up and conditions are very similar."
"It's certainly been a mixed rally for the Stobart team but Henning and Gigi showed some great pace to be in the top-three at different points during the rally and we have come away with some important points for the team,” added Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler.
“Matthew upheld British honour with a solid top-10 in what was one of the most challenging events of the calendar and his times improved greatly over the weekend."