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Hirvonen remains grounded heading for Spain
25 September 2009
Mikko Hirvonen insists he is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as the points leader prepares for the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship season next weekend in Spain.
Victory in Australia, which came after closest rival Sebastien Loeb was handed a time penalty, leaves the Finn with a five-point lead over the defending champion heading into the Spanish event, with Hirvonen keen to try and maintain his advantage going to the season finale in Wales.
Ahead of the asphalt event next weekend, Ford carried out a seven day test session, which saw Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Marko Martin complete nearly 1500km, while Hirvonen also travelled to Britain for a day of driver training with FIA Endurance Touring Car champion Rob Wilson to aid his preparations.
Despite having a first title in his sights, Hirvonen insists that he isn't feeling the pressure but can't afford to relax as Loeb attempts to overhaul his rival.
"Everyone knows how strong Loeb is on asphalt so I think there's enough of a fight for me to try to get second,” Hirvonen said. “Eight points would help greatly ahead of the last round but won't be easy to achieve. It will be a big challenge but I believe I have the speed to fight for second," he said.
"Preparations have gone well. I did some coaching with Rob Wilson in the UK to focus again on asphalt driving. It's something I've done for the past three years before asphalt rallies. Then my test went well and hopefully I picked up something extra that will add to the experience from previous years. The car felt very good so I'll wait to see how that transfers to the rally roads. On just one day I completed 350km, and that's the same distance as the entire three-day rally in Spain.
"I'm not feeling under pressure. It's just really exciting. I have a chance to win the title but I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground. I have no expectations at all and that way I've taken the pressure away, I've put it to one side. I've had a good feeling for the last five events and I've proved things to myself that I needed to."
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