Going into the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship 12 months ago, Mikko Hirvonen led the drivers' championship from Sebastien Loeb. This time around, the Ford driver is languishing in sixth place with less than half the number of points Loeb has garnered.
And, on Rallye de France this week, the Finn is struggling again - two minutes down on his countryman and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala at present. AUTOSPORT caught up with Hirvonen to ask him what was going on.
Q. How's the event?
Mikko Hirvonen: Fine. We are here. I don't know, that's it: we are here. We're playing it so safe, but still I don't have the good confidence. And then when you take it steady and play it safe, you lose so much time all of the time. It's unbelievable.
Q. Is it harder because you're not in the middle of a big fight?
MH: I just don't have the feeling to attack. The first thing is, if you don't have the confidence and you're playing it safe then you don't feel like attacking at all.
Q. Some split times were okay in the dry...
MH: Yeah. Some places, where there's more mud from the boys in front, it's a bit more difficult. But now, even if it's clean I'm just waiting for the next corner: where is the mud on the road? What's it going to be like? And in the afternoon it's easier when we have everything marked in the notes.
Q. What can you do?
MH: I can try something, but this is not about the car, it's about me not having a good time.
Q. Was it a bit like this in Germany? Is it an asphalt thing?
MH: I was fairly happy with what we were doing in Bulgaria, we were still in the speed against Jari-Matti, but then I have just lost the feeling since then.
Q. How do you change it?
MH: For sure, I'll try some things. I can't complain about the car, but let's change some things to see if something helps for me.
Q. But then if you push harder, there could be the corner waiting for you...
MH: Yeah, I'm not going to push on any more on this rally. But I do want to try to find a bit better feeling from this rally.
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