After considerable speculation, the Citroën Racing Total World Rally Team have announced that Sébastien Ogier is leaving the team to be replaced by 2011 runner-up Mikko Hirvonen from Ford.
Hirvonen has twice taken the title race down to the wire with Sébastien Loeb – whose continuation with the Citroën team until 2013 was confirmed at this year’s Rallye Deutschland – in 2009 and this year. In what could be seen as a leap of faith on the Finn’s part, he will leave behind his number one driver status at the Ford team to join the eight-time consecutive WRC title-winner Loeb as his team-mate, with faithful co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen still alongside him.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia have yet to announce their plans for 2012 and beyond, with a straight swap to Ford in Hirvonen’s place or even a drive at Volkswagen suggested by some commentators in recent weeks.
'Mikko is a talented driver and his consistency will be a big help in our fight to retain the manufacturers’ title' – Olivier Quesnel
“Seeing Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia leave strikes a particular emotional chord in the whole team,” said Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Racing Team Principal, in a press release from the team’s Versailles base this afternoon. “Citroën Racing trained them, first of all in the JWRC and then in the Citroën Junior Team and the Citroën 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 Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena…
“Now, 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.”
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