Rally Finland: Q&A with Mikko Hirvonen
With one victory on home soil to his name, Mikko Hirvonen will be bidding to extend that tally when he contests Neste Oil Rally Finland this week with the Citroën World Rally Team. Here's what he had to say ahead of the world championship counter.
Do you feel under any extra pressure for Rally Finland?
“Obviously, I felt a bit more pressure in 2010 and 2011. But each time, the rally didn’t go very well for me. This year my mindset is different. I feel confident because I know that the Citroen DS3 WRC will be formidable on this surface. I can’t wait for the first few stages.”
How important is this event in your country?
“The city of Jyvaskyla certainly goes through a bit of a transformation as the start of the event approaches. Everyone starts talking about the rally and people make extensive preparations for the event, organising their trips to watch stages with their friends and families. The closer we get to the start, the more the excitement becomes real. In the local newspapers, more or less bizarre predications begin to appear: who will win the first stage, who will go off first, etc. It really is a major event in Finland, because the Finns are truly passionate about rallying.”
What do you think about the route of this year’s rally?
“It is really good to see the old stages back on the itinerary. There will also be some brand new stages, such as the Mynnila test, which will be a new experience for everyone. Of course, I am pleased that Ouninpohja is back. It’s an incredible stage, one of the two or three best stages in the world. It is also one of the most difficult, because you are flirting with going off on every corner and on every jump! It’s flat out all the way and the feeling you get when driving is indescribable. You still feel the excitement even after passing the stop control, when you think about what you have just done.”
Your team-mate Sebastien Loeb has won this rally twice, whereas you’ve only one victory here. Do you intend to put the record straight?
“What I can say for sure is that I will be tackling the rally differently to the last two years. I am going to be a little bit more cautious at the start. I don’t want to my chances to be ruined by Thursday afternoon. However, you can't afford to lose too much time because gaps that open up can be very difficult to close. When it comes down to it, yes, I want to get back on even terms with Seb. I really want to win this rally.”