Hirvonen to partner Loeb

Citroen has announced Mikko Hirvonen will team up with eight-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb in its factory side from next season.

That means Citroen have taken the surprising step of splitting with up-and-coming Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, who won five races in his debut season and was just 12 months into a three-year contract.

Hirvonen’s move to Citroen on a two-year deal ends his six-year association with Ford, and will put the Finn into direct competition with the man who denied him a maiden world title at the final race of the 2011 | season in Wales last weekend.

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Loeb had for many years enjoyed a significant advantage over his team-mates, but Ogier’s arrival at the start of 2011 served up a stern test to the record-breaking world champion.

Midway through the season Ogier admitted his frustration at the imposition of team orders, but Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel said “Seeing Sebastien Ogier and [co-driver] Julien Ingrassia leave strikes a particular emotional chord.

“Now, we’re very happy to welcome Mikko Hirvonen and [co-driver] Jarmo Lehtinen. They’ve been our toughest rivals over the last four seasons.”