Q&A: Mikko Hirvonen
About his Rally Mexico preparations
Mikko Hirvonen finished the last two editions of Rally Mexico as runner-up to Sebastien Loeb. Next week however, with Loeb absent from the entry list, a different result is guaranteed!
But will Citroen’s new team-leader be able to overturn a difficult start to the year and get his title hopes back on track? Wrc.com spoke to him to find out:
Q: You tweeted some pictures from your pre-event test last week. How did it go?
MH: “Pretty well. We were in the south of Portugal, in the Algarve area, and did two full days of set-up testing for Mexico and Portugal. The car has changed quite a lot since last year when we were in Mexico. We introduced a big suspension step in Finland, and we had some fine-tuning to do with that and the differentials. The engineers have also done a lot of work with the engine again - like always when we go to the high altitude of Mexico. I was pleased with what we achieved. The car feels really, really good.”
Q: What sort of a challenge is Rally Mexico?
MH: “It’s okay, but because the high altitude takes away so much engine power, it calls for a different style of driving. Every time I go there I feel the car is not going anywhere. It feels like you can go flat-out into every corner. But of course you can’t. Instead, because you don’t have the power, you have to be neater, try to be consistent and keep the speed up as far as possible. Road wise there’s a little bit of everything: some really nice flowing sections, some really twisty bits and then there are rough, rocky stretches too.”
Q: You came second to Sebastien Loeb in 2011 and 2012. How do you rate your chances of victory this time?
MH: “I think they are really good. I know that the car, the team and Jarmo and I are competitive enough to fight for the win. Of course it’s not going to be easy, however, and we’re expecting a big challenge. Volkswagen showed their pace in Sweden and I believe they are going to be fast in Mexico as well. Ford have always been really fast in Mexico too. To win we need to go there and fight hard.”
Q: Which drivers do you expect to be your closest rivals in Mexico?
MH: “I reckon there are five who will be fighting for the lead or near the top: Jari-Matti Latvala, Sebastien Ogier, Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg are all in with a chance. Then there’s Evgeny Novikov who has been on a good pace too in the last couple of rallies. It’s going to be exciting.”
Q: With a fourth place in Monte-Carlo and a 17th in Sweden, you’ve started the year with two disappointing results. How important is Rally Mexico to your drivers’ title hopes?
MH: “It would be nice to win but there’s still a long season ahead and many things can happen along the way. Of course there’s a big gap now to the leader of the championship, so it would make everybody feel better if we get a good result next week and get more points than our biggest rivals, but we’re not yet at the stage where a win in Mexico is a matter of life or death."
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