Citroen number two driver Mikko Hirvonen took victory on the Rallye National Vosgien last weekend.
Hirvonen was using the event as a full-scale test session ahead of Rallye de France-Alsace next week, the eleventh round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.
The event began on Friday evening with two night stages and while the day seen hot and sunny weather, the crews were greeted by appalling conditions as they lined up at the start: “I have never driven on tarmac in conditions like that”, commented Mikko at the finish of 'La Vologne'. “It was raining so hard that we couldn't see the road. There were enormous puddles of water forming, ideal for aquaplaning.
“We also had to contend with dense fog and seriously reduced visibility. And in addition to all this, as the rally is very technically demanding, we really had to be very careful not to make a mistake.”
Despite all of this, Hirvonen took what would be the first of many stage wins and at the end of the day one, topped the overall standings with a one and a half second lead over his closest challenger.
Day two featured three loops of three stages, interspersed with two service periods, and Hirvonen gradually extended his lead, winning seven of the day's nine stages. In the end he beat Ford's Mads Ostberg by 22.2 seconds, while Sebastien Chardonnet was third on his first competitive outing in the Citroen DS3 WRC.
“We are really pleased with our weekend in the Vosges!" Hirvonen added. “It's true that we were thrown straight in at the deep end with the terrible weather we had on Friday's stages, but we completed the three stages of this rally in very different situations, which helped us to acquire some good experience of the road surface.
“Basically, we have achieved our goals and we mustn't forget that this is also our first win in the Citroen DS3 WRC [on asphalt]!
“Now it's just a question of applying what we have learned here when it comes to the Rallye de France-Alsace in Strasbourg in a couple of weeks' time,” he concluded.