Former M-Sport star Mikko Hirvonen is set to contest the Stadium Cars International Classic Rally of Otago next year.
Hirvonen called time on his World Rally Championship career at the end of the 2014 season following a span which saw him net 15 WRC wins including multiple Rally Australia crowns.
The Finn will be co-driven by Jarmo Lehtinen who called the notes for Hirvonen with the pair finishing runner-up in the WRC four times.
Otago organisers continue its trend of attracting topline international rally crews for the 40th anniversary of the event.
Previously former world champions who have taken on Otago include Bjorn Waldegard, Hannu Mikkola, Juha Kankkunen, Ari Vatanen and Miki Biasion and Didier Auriol as well as the legendary Michele Mouton.
“I have been aware of the Otago Classic Rally for a number of years, and it has always been an event that I wanted to do one day,” Hirvonen said.
“I have competed in Rally New Zealand many times, but have never competed on the South Island roads.
“The attraction of competing on these roads in a legendary BDA Escort is irresistible.”
Otago Rally spokesman Roger Oakley said Hirvonen’s inclusion adds to the rich heritage of the south island event.
“We are excited to receive Mikko’s entry, as he has a fabulous record in the World Championship and our fans are in for a treat of world class driving on world class roads,” Oakely said.
“New Zealand and Australian competitors will have a real benchmark to compare themselves to.
“Mikko is known for being very approachable and likeable, and we are delighted to welcome him to the Otago Rally.”
As well as former WRC champions a host of Australian stars including Ross Dunkerton and Neal Bates and New Zealand’s current Hyundai WRC full-timer Hayden Paddon, the reigning Otago champion, have participated.
The 2016 Otago Rally will be held from April 8 to 10 next year which will open the New Zealand Rally Championship.
Mikko Hirvonen WRC career snapshot
Born: July 31, 1980
WRC teams: Citroen, Ford, Subaru, Skoda, M-Sport Ford
WRC rallies: 163
WRC wins: 15
WRC podiums: 69
First rally: 2002 Rally Finland
First win: 2006 Rally Australia
Last win: 2012 Rally d’Italia Sardegna
Last rally: 2014 Wales Rally GB