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Q&A: Mikko Hirvonen - Ford: EXCLUSIVE

23 September 2008

by Rob Wilkins


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MIKKO HIRVONEN: CLICK HERE


Mikko Hirvonen was the big star at the recent Castle Combe Rallyday and while he is currently eight points behind Sebastien Loeb in the battle for the 2008 drivers' title, with four rounds still to go and 40 points up for grabs it is by no means over. Crash.net Radio caught up with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team man there and got his thoughts ahead of the coming back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and Corsica...


Crash.net:
Mikko, this is your second time at the Rallyday. What have you made of this year's event?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is good. It feels like there is even more cars than two years ago. Obviously the weather is a lot better - last time there was heavy rain. It is really nice.

Crash.net:
The World Rally Championship is now entering its final phase and while you are behind, you are still in contention.

MH:
You never know what is going to happen. Obviously if Sebastien doesn't have any bad luck and he finishes the rallies like he normally does it is going to be very difficult to take the title. But I don't have much to lose and I am just going to go for it and then we will see what happens.

Crash.net:
How crucial are the two asphalt events coming up in Spain and France?

MH:
Well they are critical. In Japan and GB I am going to be strong and I have a lot better chance to beat Sebastian on those events than on the tarmac rallies. Hopefully we can find some speed though in Spain and Corsica, which will enable us to beat Sebastian on asphalt as well. He can't get away. I need to finish those rallies and try and get as many points as I can.

Crash.net:
Do you think you need to win in either Spain or France?

MH:
It would help for sure and that is what I will try to do. But against Sebastien it is going to be tricky. As I said though, there is nothing to lose. We will see.

Crash.net:
After those two asphalt events, as you said it is back to gravel. If you can stay in touch post-Spain and post-France do you think your chances will improve?

MH:
They will yeah. Jari-Matti [Latvala] is going to be very strong on those rallies as well and there is a chance he could maybe help me and be ahead of Sebastien as well. That would be really good. But we need to do these tarmac rallies first and then see what the situation is.

Crash.net:
Of course the team introduced the new 2008 spec Focus in Germany. Has that made much difference?

MH:
A little bit. There are some small changes with the weight distribution and with the engine. It always helps. But we have driven the same car now for two and a half years and when you get a new car it is easier to do big steps forward. Now it is just fine-tuning all those details and so it doesn't make a massive difference.

Crash.net:
There are rumours Marcus Gronholm might come out of retirement next year. What do you think of that?

MH:
That would be really, really great. I am sure he would still love it and all the spectators and fans would love him to come back. He was just such a big character. It would be nice.

Crash.net:
Next year there is only going to be twelve events, how do you feel about that?

MH:
In a way I like it as I can spend a bit more time back home and stay with my family. It doesn't matter really though - I don't mind if it is 16, 15 or 12 rallies per year - whatever, I will drive all of those.

Crash.net:
Subaru confirmed recently that they will have a 'B' team in 2009. That is good news for the WRC isn't it?

MH:
It is good as there will be more drivers' in the WRC - and more chances for young drivers' to come into the sport. But I think there is still room to improve the rules a little bit. I would like to see all the factory outfits given the chance to have a third car that could score points for the team, like it was in 2003 - that was a good system. I would like it better that way.

Crash.net:
Staying with the rules, what have you made of the tactics we have seen this season on the gravel events?

MH:
I was actually completely happy with the way it was last year [when the top runners were reversed on days 2 and 3]. Maybe when the FIA changed it they thought there might be more different winners and a closer fight. There have been some really interesting rallies this season and lots of battles all the way to the end. That has been good. But I don't think it has changed that much. This is how it is now and everybody can play games.

Crash.net:
It has spiced it up though hasn't it?

MH:
It has, but if you are the first car on the road on the Friday and the guy behind you plays tactics you can almost certainly say you are not going to win the rally. It is so much easier for the guys behind to play tactics. If they change that a bit next year it would be welcomed by me.

Crash.net:
Final question, when you go to France and Spain, Francois Duval will be your team-mate. Will that make much difference?

MH:
Hopefully - he is doing some testing with the car and will bring a new point of view and new ideas of what he thinks of it. Maybe he will find something we haven't thought about and it will improve the Focus. Otherwise it doesn't make much difference really.


TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH MIKKO HIRVONEN: CLICK HERE


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