Mikko Hirvonen has insisted that he won't let the pressure get to him this weekend as he heads to his home round of the World Rally Championship, the Rally Finland, eager to win for the very first time.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT number one went into the summer break on a high by taking a 'tactical' win on the Rally of Turkey, something that lifted him back into the lead in the battle for the 2008 drivers' title - three points up on Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.

While Hirvonen will have to run first on the road in Jyvasklya as a result now, he isn't bothered and will be hoping to go one better than last year, when he finished second to his then team-mate and fellow countryman, Marcus Gronholm.

Speaking ahead of the ninth round in the WRC, it was clear he will be after the maximum ten points, and that would be the perfect result, especially as he will celebrate his 28th birthday this Thursday, when the event gets underway with the first run through the short 2.06 km Killeri super special.

"I've stood beside these stages since I was a kid watching heroes like Markku Alen and Ari Vatanen driving. My family and friends will all be out watching and it would be a fantastic feeling to stand on the top step of the podium in front of them on the Sunday afternoon," said Hirvonen, ahead of his seventh participation on the 'Rally of a 1000 Lakes'.

"But there are other drivers who are capable of preventing me from doing that.

"There is a little more pressure on me to win in Finland than on other rallies but it's nothing I can't cope with. I can't wait because it's the first time that I will start my home rally leading the championship. This rally is all about bravery, trust in the pace notes and accuracy. There is simply no room for mistakes."

Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala could be one of those threats and he is also just as eager for the action to get underway: "It would be special to win on home ground in Finland. Victory here is more highly regarded than in some other world rallies. It requires solid experience of the rally and I need to be able to drive flat out from start to finish without making mistakes. Anyone hoping to win needs to have completed the full rally - from start-to-finish - at least twice. I've done that and have started on three other occasions," added the 23-year-old.

"I know parts of Saturday's new stages, some of which are narrower than the traditional wide roads used during the second leg. I feel very confident after finishing second in Turkey last month. I made mistakes in Argentina and Italy and had problems in Greece before that so the result in Turkey was a big relief. It gave me a real boost to fight with Mikko and S?bastien Loeb and take that confidence into the summer break."

Khalid Al Qassimi meanwhile will join Hirvonen and Latvala on the event in the 'third' car. Rally Finland will mark the first anniversary of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's partnership with Ford and Khalid is eager to see how much he has progressed since finishing 16th in Finland twelve months ago.

"My first year in the WRC has been a process of learning the various driving techniques and styles required to negotiate the new terrain I've encountered. I've finished every event, but in Finland my pace notes and stage experience should benefit my times. It will be the first rally where I can look at my previous year's performance and assess my progress. I'm intrigued to know how I am developing one year into my WRC career," said the 36-year-old.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment