Having completed a three-day recce of the Rally Argentina route, Mikko Hirvonen gives AUTOSPORT the inside line on this what's fast becoming the most talked-about event of the season.
Q. So, you've seen the longest rally of the year now. What do you think?
Mikko Hirvonen: It's OK, not too bad. It's been tricky in some places, especially with the fog coming down.
Q. And what about the 40-mile stage on Sunday. What are your thoughts on that one?
MH: I don't think this will be the biggest challenge of the event. Yes, it's long and tough in places, but there will be harder stages I think. The longest stage is very fast in places and, actually, the road section on the way up to this stage might have been better - there were some really fantastic places on the way up. OK, the long stage is going to be a challenge because of just how far it goes.
Q. Which are the most challenging stages?
MH: I think stage three (Ascochinga-Agua de Oro) and stage nine (Intiyaco-Golpe de Agua) are going to be the tough ones. Stage three is the long one which we used last year and we know how hard that one was. But stage nine is one of the most fantastic stages I have ever driven in Argentina, it's one of the best we have seen. There are lots of jumps and crests and the last six kilometres is just so fast, it's great. Unfortunately, the end of this stage was where the fog was coming, so it will be tough on the rally.
Q. How were the roads looking? What will the second loop be like?
MH: The roads seem to be in worse condition than last year, but it feels like we say that every year. They are quite soft, so the second run of the stage is going to be quite hard.
Q. After 30 degrees last week, the temperature has really dropped this week. Do you think the hard Michelin will work?
MH: I'm sure it will be fine. The surface of the road is so soft, the tyre will cut through and get traction I'm sure. And we have 10 soft tyres which we can use as well. What we do with the tyres will really depend a lot on the weather. There is some talk of the rain coming and we did have some rain on the recce yesterday (Tuesday), so the soft tyre would work better then.
Q. There's been some talk of snow and ice on top of Condor on Sunday, what do you think?
MH: I'd be surprised. The temperatures are quite high, so I don't think we'll see that.
Q. How are you feeling about this event, after the disappointment of being excluded from your first win on the Rally of Portugal?
MH: I have a very good feeling again now, with the car and everything. The situation is fine now. Obviously, I was very disappointed with what happened in Portugal, but we have to leave that behind and get on with this one.