Hirvonen believes he and Citroen are ready to end Ford's stronghold and win Rally Sweden
|By David Evans||Friday, February 3rd 2012, 10:23 GMT|
Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen says the French firm's DS3 WRC is strong enough to end his former team Ford's stronghold on next week's Rally Sweden.
Hirvonen has won the last two Karlstad-based events in a Ford and you have to go back to Petter Solberg's Subaru success in 2005 for the last time it wasn't one of the British-built World Rally Cars on the top step of the podium.
Having switched his allegiance to Citroen over the closed season however, Hirvonen says he is ready to ruin the record he helped build.
After two days testing the Citroen DS3 WRC, Hirvonen says the car is ready to win in the snow for the first time.
He said: "It was very enjoyable to drive in conditions that I really love. Unlike Monte Carlo, where the grip changes all the time, ice provides a very consistent level of grip.
"In the first few kilometres, my feeling with the car was mixed. We worked with the engineers and ended up finding the right balance for the extreme conditions that are typical in Sweden and Norway. I was very pleased with the result at the end of the session. I think we're ready.
"The first thing would say is that I think we have a car that can win. But even though we have done well as this rally in the last four years, it is still going to be a difficult challenge.
"We have worked hard in testing but the CitroŽn DS3 WRC is still new to me. I can't predict what my level of confidence will be on the stages but yes, I think I have chance of winning.
"After winning the last two editions of Rally Sweden, obviously my goal is to win again. I think that it will be a more closely-fought race than at Monte Carlo, simply because we will all have the same tyres from start to finish. Personally, it is a new challenge, which is very motivating for me."
Ahead of Rally Sweden, Hirvonen will tackle tomorrow's Rally Finnskog in Norway as final preparation for the second round of the WRC.
"Rally Sweden is an important event for Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and me," said Hirvonen. "We wanted to maximise our chances of getting the best possible result on one of our preferred surfaces.
"We have done a lot of work in testing, but there is always a difference between a test run that you complete ten times or more and then the actual stages, in race conditions.
"Rally Finnskog will give us the chance to confirm our feeling with the car in conditions similar to those we'll have at Rally Sweden."