The Finns will use the five-day rally as a key part of their preparation for the 2010 WRC, which starts in Sweden on 12-14 February, while showcasing the Fiesta S2000 rally car for the first time in competition. The car has been developed by Ford's rally partner, M-Sport, and made its first appearance as a safety car in November's IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) Rally of Scotland which, like the Monte Carlo Rally, it is not part of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Hirvonen, who missed this year's WRC drivers' title by just one point, tested the Fiesta S2000 for the first time in the south of France earlier this week.
“It's great to finally drive the S2000 Fiesta,” said Hirvonen. “I was impressed by how good the chassis is and that allowed me to push really hard straight away. The conditions in France have been difficult but even with a changing grip level I have been able to drive in a very committed way. I've driven the Monte Carlo Rally five times previously, so I'm familiar with the roads and the conditions. There are almost four months between the final round of 2009 and the start of the 2010 season, so this will be ideal for getting my mind back into competition mode.”
M-Sport managing director and BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson said the Fiesta S2000 was due for homologation in January, so the Monte Carlo Rally provided a perfect opportunity for the car's competition debut.
“Ford has a long association with the Monte Carlo Rally, which we won in 2006 with Marcus Grönholm in a Focus RS World Rally Car,” said Wilson. “It remains a legendary event and will provide spectators with an exciting chance to see the Fiesta S2000 in competitive action over classic stages such as the Col de Turini. Competition is the true challenge for any new car, and Mikko's feedback on its performance will prove valuable for our development programme.”
The Monte Carlo Rally will take place from January 19-23.