Mikko Hirvonen will link up with Sebastien Loeb and drive for the Citroen Total World Rally Team in 2012, it has been announced.
Hirvonen, who made his debut in the WRC in 2002 and who has been a Ford factory driver for a number of years, finishing second in the drivers' championship this year and in 2009, has inked a two-year deal.
Citroen also added, as has been rumoured for some time now, that Sebastien Ogier will leave at the end of this year after Citroen Racing 'finally decided to end their collaboration'.
The Frenchman had been contracted until December 2013. It is thought he will now join the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team alongside Jari-Matti Latvala, although the 'Blue Oval' has still to officially confirm its WRC programme for next year. Volkswagen is also believed to be a possibility and is understood to have approached the 27-year-old.
“Seeing Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave strikes a particular emotional chord in the whole team,” said Citroen boss, Olivier Quesnel. “Citroen Racing trained them, first of all in the JWRC and then in the Citroen Junior Team and the Citroen Total World Rally Team.
“They had a very good season with five victories and third place in the Drivers' World Championship, and they made a productive contribution to the conquest of the manufacturers' title alongside Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena who have claimed their eighth consecutive world crown, a unique achievement in motorsport.
“Now [though], we're very happy to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. They've been our toughest rivals over the last four seasons and we're really looking forward to our future collaboration.
“Mikko is a talented driver and his consistency will be a big help in our fight to retain the manufacturers' title.”
Frederic Banzet, general manager at Citroen Automobiles, added: “I'd like to take advantage of this occasion to repeat my congratulations to the whole Citroen Racing team for their 2011 titles, as well as Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena for their eighth consecutive crown.
“I'd like to thank Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia for their involvement with the make over the last four years and the six victories they've added to its results.
“Today, I'd also like to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen who are joining us to continue Citroen Racing's sporting adventure and its determination to score more victories starting with the 2012 Monte Carlo Rally in January,” he summed-up.