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EXCLUSIVE Mikko Hirvonen, Citroen – Q&A

13 September 2012

Mikko Hirvonen made the move to Citroen this season and ahead of Wales Rally GB, Crash.net's Rob Wilkins spoke to him about his year to date, his hopes for the remaining events and got him to look to 2013...



Crash.net:
Mikko, just three rallies to go now after this weekend's Rally GB, how pleased have you been with your form this season?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I am quite happy. I am a little bit disappointed I haven't been able to take my [first] win with Citroen yet. But we have been close and we have had good points. We are still missing the win, but otherwise, we have had really, really good pace and have been really consistent and so has the team. I have to be happy with that.

Crash.net:
How important is it for you to win an event this year, is it essential?

Mikko Hirvonen:
The target is to take one. But I am not so concerned about it. At least on many rallies we have been on the pace that we have to be. In some rallies we have just lost by a few seconds or we haven't been fighting all the way through [due to team orders]. At least we have been there, that is the main thing. I really wanted to be at least close to Sebastien [Loeb]'s pace in as many rallies as I could and it has been really good [to have done that]. In that way I am quite happy.

Crash.net:
What's it been like working with Sebastien and observing the WRC's most successful driver ever first hand? It must be quite interesting...

Mikko Hirvonen:
Yeah, it has been. I was really excited about that at the start of the year. I have always got on with him really well and now I have finally had a chance to compare the data and look at his way of driving and compare my driving style as well and what the differences are on that and on the set-up. It has been a good thing for me and I am starting to get through it. I am really happy with that.

Crash.net:
Have you picked up any tips?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Yeah a few, but I am quite surprised how close our driving styles are. The differences in braking are the main thing and then the other biggest area where he is taking the seconds is he is just so unbelievably consistent all the time. For me that is his main strength. Okay he is really, really fast. But he is consistent as well, very consistent [on every stage]. That is the biggest thing for me to improve.

Crash.net:
Is Loeb beatable?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It has been difficult in the past eight years. But sometimes it is possible and like I said after Rally Finland, a perfect rally against him is not enough. It has to be absolutely perfect, or even better than that. He is beatable, but it needs some very good driving, that is for sure.

Q:
How do you feel you have settled in at Citroen after so long at Ford?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It has been quite a change. But I am really happy I took the opportunity. It was a good chance to be part of one of the most successful rally teams and I think I have learned a lot. In a way after all those years I drove for Ford, even though it was a shame to leave all the friends and all the boys behind, in a way I felt like I needed a change. It has been really good for me. I am really happy how things are at the moment.

Crash.net:
Has it been easier or harder than you expected making the switch?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It has been pretty easy. The team has helped me a lot with that. I thought it would be a lot more difficult to settle in a French team. But they have made me feel really welcome and have been helping me with many things. It has been good and maybe easier than I first thought.

Crash.net:
How does the Citroen DS3 WRC and the Fiesta RS WRC compare?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Well now of course I have to say the Citroen DS3 is miles ahead, so much better! [laughs] But to be honest the cars are very different. Just the idea how the teams are thinking in terms of building a rally car, there is big differences. Okay, I needed to get to know the [DS3 WRC] car a bit at first and not really change my driving style, but get use to it. But I really love the Citroen. It has been unbelievably strong and reliable this year. Not a single thing so far in rallies has happened to slow us down. All I need to do is adjust the car. It is turning so well and now we have been working on the car it is a lot more precise for me - and at high speed too.

Crash.net:
What is your target for Rally GB this weekend?

Mikko Hirvonen:
As you said, I haven't got my first win yet, so for sure I am aiming for that.

Crash.net:
Are you looking forward to Rally GB and how will you approach it?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It has always been quite flat-out right from the start with all those fast stages. I think that is how I have to start and we just have to see what the weather does. It is strange now when it has actually been quite dusty in the stages - that is something you don't see in GB so often. But I am sure it will rain. Then it will be a normal Rally GB!

Crash.net:
Beyond GB, how are you going to tackle the events in France, Italy and Spain?

Mikko Hirvonen:
Flat out. I think in this rally we have a chance to secure the manufacturers' title and okay, I would really like to win the rally, but I really hope we can secure the manufacturers' title as well. I think Spain and France will be really important rallies for me. I really want to do well on tarmac and if we can secure the manufacturers' here, I can do whatever I want on those tarmac rallies and I'd really like that. I hope this event goes well and then I can really charge on those rallies at the end of the season.

Crash.net:
Looking to 2013, do you think you have what it takes to push and mount a title bid?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I think so. I have one year [almost] behind me now with Citroen. I have learned a lot. I know which areas to improve and I have a lot more under my belt for next year. I just need to push a bit harder all the way from the start and who knows how it is going to be. I think we should be ready to fight for the title.

Crash.net:
How important will the consistency be again next year?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I have to keep that for sure. I need to get all the points like I have done so far. I need to be really, really consistent again - that has always been my strongest point, but by itself it is not enough. I need to win more rallies as well.

Crash.net:
How big a threat will Volkswagen be in 2013 and should Citroen and Ford be worried?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is difficult to say. It looks like they have all the money and the budget to do really well. They are well prepared. They have done a lot of testing this year and they have good drivers. On paper it looks really good and they should be ready. But still everything has to work together and it is not guaranteed they will be straight away on top. It will be very interesting at the start of the season to see how they get on.

Crash.net:
Final question, the WRC still has no promoter - are you surprised that situation still hasn't been resolved?

Mikko Hirvonen:
I don't know... luckily it is not my problem to have to think about and try and find a solution. But it is something which has to be solved and I really hope all those things are solved for next year. It is really important for rallying to find a promoter.


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