Q & A with Mikko Hirvonen
|Friday, October 16th 2009, 12:07 GMT|
Conducted and provided by the Ford press office
Q. How does it feel to be leading the championship with only one round to go?
Mikko Hirvonen: It feels great but I have led the championship before. I've just not led it with only one event to go! I'm trying not to think about until the rally is over in Cardiff. Hopefully the team will be having a big party though.
Q. Are you feeling under pressure?
MH: Not at the moment, no. It's just really exciting. I actually have a chance to win and I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground. It will be a hard fight though, I'm not underestimating the job I need to do in Wales. But I have no expectations at all and that way I've taken the pressure away, I've put it on the side. We've had a good feeling for the last six events and I've proved things to myself that I needed to do. That's also taken some of the pressure away.
Q. At what point this year did you feel you could challenge Loeb and take the title?
MH: I started the season thinking I could do it. Then when we retired from Argentina and we scored no points, I virtually gave up. It was only after we won in Greece that I started to hope again. But in Poland after Loeb went off and we moved into the championship lead, I knew we were back in the fight. So Poland was the big turning point in my mind. I always knew it would be difficult though - he's five-times champion!
Q. Has anything changed in your mind since last year?
MH: Nothing has changed. I knew I could challenge him if we had perfect rallies and with one more year of experience and confidence behind us. We've driven some really good rallies this season. Even when he was winning events, we were right behind him in second place. I've challenged him on so many stages and I knew I could do it.
Q. What have you been doing since Spain two weeks ago?
MH: Immediately after the rally I did a passenger ride event for BP and Castrol in Spain. I've been spending some time with my family and done quite a few media interviews and appearances.
We've tested in Cumbria this week to find a good set up for Rally GB and I'm feeling comfortable with the car. We're driving in the Cambrian Rally as a course car this weekend. The roads are similar to those we're going to experience in Rally GB, so good experience after the asphalt in Spain. I won the Cambrian back in 2002 so I'm looking forward to going back there.
Q. If you had a choice of any event on which to challenge Loeb, what would it be?
MH: It would have to be Finland. On your home event, you have an added confidence and knowledge of the roads. Rally GB would be definitely be second on the list though. It's a fantastic event and I love driving there. The roads really suit me. They are fast and flowing and at this time of year they won't be covered in ice or snow, so they should be perfect.
Q. Are you concerned at all about starting Rally GB first on the road?
MH: No, not at all. It's not the sort of rally where there is a massive difference between running first, second or third on the road. If it's really muddy then first on the road is the best place to be and if it's dry and dusty then first is also best. So I'm happy with starting first.