Q & A: Mikko Hirvonen on 2011 WRC title bid
|By David Evans||Wednesday, November 9th 2011, 13:25 GMT|
Mikko Hirvonen goes into the season-ending Rally of Great Britain knowing he will need to overturn an eight point deficit to Sebastien Loeb if he is to secure his first WRC title.
Hirvonen was in a similar position in 2009, when he actually led Loeb heading into the decisive final round - only to be pipped to the title by one point.
Now, as he attempts to deprive Loeb of a record eighth title, Autosport.com caught up with Ford's Mikko Hirvonen.
Q. How was the test last week?
Mikko Hirvonen: "It was good. It was just mileage, we didn't change anything on the car. It was just driving and trying to push really hard through the whole day to get the final feeling and confidence with the car. Nothing special. I'm just ready. I have studied the stages and just tried to sleep and rest before the weekend."
Q. Are you lacking confidence if you're still trying to find it in the car?
Hirvonen: "No. After being on Tarmac (in Catalunya), going back to the muddy, slippery gravel takes some mileage to get that feeling and to find out where the grip level is again. The car is feeling very good. If everything works, the car and I will definitely be very fast. I'm confident for the rally."
Q. Have you pushed the set-up closer to the edge for this event?
Hirvonen: "No, not with the set-up. We have to be ready for anything to happen on this event. If it's foggy and muddy and slippery as it is likely to be here, you can take more of a risk in the fog and in those conditions."
Q. Is that what you want, fog and tough conditions?
Hirvonen: "I believe I can go well there. If we get the fog, then it's going to be a big push there. Otherwise, even if the conditions are like this, clear all the time then it will be easier and it can still be perfect. I'll take it steady for the first two days and then push like hell."
Q. What do you think of the new roads?
Hirvonen: "They are really, really nice. I don't like the start on Great Orme, but the Friday gravel stages are fantastic. The Orme looks spectacular, but it can only destroy your car there. And if you do that then you have to do all of Friday morning like that as well. I don't care if I lose 10 seconds over there, I just take it back on the gravel stages."
Q. Is it the kerbs which make the Orme so difficult?
Hirvonen: "It's the kerbs and then it's really fast in places. Some of the corners, because they haven't been used in ages, they are just slimey and more slippery than the others; it's so easy to go wide and damage the car."
Q. What have you learned since you came here in 2009 when you were last fighting for the championship?
Hirvonen: "The situation is different. Back then, if something happened to Loeb, I didn't need to even win the rally to take the title. This time, I have to win the rally and the powerstage and then see what's happening behind."
Q. Do you feel stronger as a person and a driver than you did in 2009?
Hirvonen: "Well, I'm more relaxed and not so nervous about the situation, so maybe I do, yes."