as Greek star Rouvas samples Focus RS WRC
Ford's World Rally Championship driver Mikko Hirvonen hit the right note yesterday evening when he treated Greek singer Sakis Rouvas to a passenger ride in his Focus RS World Rally Car ahead of the star's sell-out concert in Cyprus.
Hirvonen, visiting the Mediterranean island to compete in the FxPro Cyprus Rally, provided the 37-year-old Corfu-born singer with a taste of the Focus RS WRC's performance as he drove him along the picturesque seafront road into Limassol. Rouvas later entertained a capacity 8,000 crowd at the city's Palais des Sports after wishing Hirvonen well at the rally's start ceremony there.
"Sakis wanted to know all about the switches and controls in the cockpit of the Focus and we joked about how both of us earn our living on a stage – him on the stage of concert venues and me in the special stages of the WRC," said Hirvonen. "The Eurovision Song Contest has a huge following in Finland so I promised to support him in May's competition – provided he doesn't beat my own country! When I saw the welcome he received from fans at the start I realised just what a huge star he is in this part of the world."
"That was a fantastic experience," said Rouvas, as he climbed out of the Focus RS WRC. "Mikko told me all about the car and showed me some of its capabilities. I was amazed at the acceleration, there was a real kick in the back as the power came in, and the braking was equally impressive. It's the first time I have sat inside a World Rally Car. Mikko promised me that next time he will drive me through a stage so when Ford comes to the rally in Greece in June I will contact him to remind him of that!"
Rouvas finished third in the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest and performed at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Athens the same year. He will represent Greece for a second time in Eurovision in Moscow in May. He also hosts the Greek version of hit TV programme The X Factor.
BP Ford World Rally Team driver Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen face more than 330km of flat out competition on both asphalt and rocky gravel mountain tracks before the Cyprus Rally finishes in Limassol on Sunday afternoon.