BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen took the lead in the drivers' championship following his second win in succession last time out in Poland and he now heads to his home event with a slender one point lead over multiple world champion Sebastien Loeb. Crash.net Radio's Rob Wilkins caught up with the Finn recently and spoke to him about his targets for Rally Finland and the rest of the season...

Crash.net:
Mikko, congratulations on winning in Poland and on taking the lead in the drivers' championship, how are you going to approach your home event in Finland now?

Mikko Hirvonen:
It is going to be nice to be in the lead for Rally Finland and things have definitely turned around in the last few events. I never thought it would be like this when we come over here. But it is good. I feel like I have less pressure now since I have had a few good rallies and we are in the lead. It is going to be really great to get started again.

Related Articles

Crash.net:
How much will the home crowd spur you on?

MH:
The fans have always been really good. There is always a lot of spectators in Finland and they are really supportive and really into rallying. It is really nice to drive here in front of my family, cousins and friends. The feeling will be brilliant again.

Crash.net:
Quite a lot of the route is new in Finland - that plays into your hands doesn't it?

MH:
Yeah - maybe, but basically I would say there are only two and a half [totally] new stages. Everything else is new compared to last year. However, those stages were used two or three years ago and so it is not completely new. But there are some small changes compared to 2008. The roads are possibly a bit bigger too, which I like more. That is good for us.

Crash.net:
Have you thought about the events after Finland yet - and what you might need to do in Australia, Spain and GB?

MH:
I have. It is basically four rallies left and the championship starts all over again. Sebastien and I are almost level and so everything is open. All the gravel rallies that are left are quite fast and I like them all. In that way it looks good.

Crash.net:
Overall have you been pleased with your form this season and how much do you think you have improved since last year?

MH:
You always improve a bit. It was obviously difficult at the start of the season. Sebastien won all the rallies and I was always second. It didn't go as planned. But I would say that we were a little bit closer again. Then from Sardinia things have turned around. We had a good test over there and since then we have won all the rallies - with Jari-Matti in Sardinia and then me in Greece and Poland. I think the car is definitely working well. I am more confident and I have been in this situation before as well. Hopefully I learnt something from last year.

Crash.net:
Your team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala made another costly mistake in Poland. Have you spoken to him since then and given him any advice?

MH:
No, not really [I haven't given him any advice]. I have spoken with him yes, but he just needs to get around it. That is the only way. He has made many mistakes this year. But it has happened already and you can't change that. He just needs to move on and concentrate on the next rallies.

Crash.net:
How much harder does it make things for you when Jari-Matti makes errors like we saw in Poland?

MH:
It doesn't really make it any harder. I do need to bring points to the team, but then again those points are very important for me as well. When I am concentrating on the drivers' title I need points for that and when I get points for it, it helps the team as well. That is all I am trying to do. But for sure, my points are not going to be enough for the manufacturers' and so we need Jari-Matti up there.

Crash.net:
Looking beyond 2009, a lot was announced recently by the WSMC in relation to the WRC. What do you make of the calendar for 2010?

MH:
I think it looks quite good. There is one rally more [than this year] and some rallies are coming back. We are going back to Japan and New Zealand - long-haul events. It looks okay. We will have to see how it comes out and how many testing days there are. But overall it looks really positive.

Crash.net:
One major change announced by the WMSC concerns the SupeRally. What are you thoughts on how that is going to be overhauled?

MH:
I don't know how it is exactly going to change or how they are going to do the points. But if they are planning to have points for each day, personally, I think it is a really stupid idea. It just confuses the whole thing again. For me if you SupeRally you should only be able to get points for the manufacturers' and that is it. That would take all the tactics and things away. Also all the [top] 15 drivers' should be reversed for the next day [in terms of the starting order]. That is how it was and then everybody would be driving flat-out from Friday to Sunday and the best guy would win. Overall I think the new points system sounds really stupid.

Crash.net:
The events are going to be given a lot more freedom in the future (with an increase in the overall event distance and so on) - what is your take on that?

MH:
That is good and is something I will like. I've always wanted the rallies to be a bit more like they use to be 10 or 15 years ago - like five day rallies, many different stages and lots of kilometres and maybe driving overnight as well. It sounds very promising. I am really looking forward to that.

Crash.net:
Final question, returning to this year, what do you think might be the key to beating Loeb and taking the title?

MH:
So far I have won two rallies but Sebastien has retired or made a mistake in both of those. If I want to win the title then I need to beat him at least twice in a fair fight. If I can do that we are going to be very close.

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