Four-time WRC runner up Mikko Hirvonen is no stranger to the rough and tumble of off-road rallying. With a grand total of 163 World Championship outings under his belt, including 15 rally victories, the flying Finn has blazed a trail through just about everything that Mother Nature has thrown at him. The 34 year-old may have bid farewell to the World Rally Championship last year, however his driving gloves weren’t on the hanger for long.
The MINI X-raid squad are themselves no strangers to success on the biggest rallying stage, having swept to victory on no less than four consecutive occasions since 2012. The current champions will once again be fielding the dune-munching MINI ALL 4 Racing in 2016, a behemoth of a machine that’s a million miles away from the company’s 1960s rallying roots.
It takes two to tango in such a demanding off-road competition, so rookie Hirvonen will be partnered in the cockpit by vastly experienced co-driver Michel Périn. A four-time Dakar winner, the 58 year-old’s most recent taste of success came at the 2014 edition alongside Spain’s Nani Roma. Like Hirvonen, the Frenchman is coming out of retirement to tackle Dakar 2016. The pair first joined forces while testing in Morocco earlier this year and will continue to hone their skills aboard the ALL 4 Racing at selected rounds of the 2015 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup before embarking on their Dakar assignment.
Hirvonen didn’t reach the top echelons of world rallying without a fiercely competitive streak, however even he acknowledges the enormity of the Dakar challenge. “To finish the event without encountering major issues or without getting stuck anywhere already would represent a really good achievement for my first Dakar”, insisted the former Ford WRC star.
Hirvonen will make his Dakar Rally debut on January 3rd 2016. He’ll no doubt be hoping to be celebrating crossing the finish line ten days and several thousand miles later.