X-raid signs Mikko Hirvonen for 2016 Dakar Rally
After four consecutive wins at the legendary Dakar Rally, the German X-raid team is ready for next event in South American mountains and deserts. From 2016 onwards, Dakar Rally’s new star driver will be a member of the winning team – former WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen.
The 34-year-old Finn retired from World Rally Championship at the end of 2014 season, after 13 competitive years and finished second in the World Championship four time (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012). But, racing is in Mikko’s blood and retirement didn’t last too long, so he decided to accept a new challenge.
Hirvonen already tested X-raid’s winning car – the Mini All4 Racing, in Morocco in June. At the end of July, his racing debut will follow at Baja Aragon race in Spain. The former WRC ace was thrilled by the Mini All4 Racing, although the switch to off-road rallying represents a major challenge for him.
To provide him the best possible support on the way to cope with the new challenge, X-raid has teamed him up with the experienced co-driver Michel Perin. Périn is a four-time Dakar winner who celebrated his last win in 2014, together with Nani Roma. Perin also had announced his retirement from motor racing, early this year, but he changed his mind and will sit beside Hirvonen.
“We are really delighted with having succeeded in signing Mikko. He certainly will be an asset not only to our team but to the Dakar, too. In the tests in Morocco he delivered in truly impressive style and felt good on the ‘new terrain’ right from the start. Nonetheless, one shouldn’t have too high expectations regarding his Dakar debut. Mikko still has to gather a lot of experience as the Dakar is a unique event. But on the other hand, Michel is a very experienced co-driver who has got what it takes to support him in many areas,” said X-raid’s Team Manager Sven Quandt.
“I’ve been executing long tests with the X-raid Team and I’ve been lucky to have been teamed-up with my very experienced co-driver, Michel Périn. He and the team helped me a lot to get a better picture of what it’s all about and the more they tell me, the more I’m getting excited about the challenge. Of course, the car and the terrain where we were driving differed a lot from what you have to cope with in WRC rallying. A WRC car is more precise and more responsive but wouldn’t be able to go to the places we can go to with the MINI. And the MINI’s strength and ruggedness is just incredible. Sometimes we aren’t racing on roads but have to contest full off-road sections and the punishment this car is able to take is extremely impressive,”said Mikko Hirvonen.