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Hirvonen: Victory essential.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen will be going all out for victory on the Rally Japan this week as he tries to keep his slender hopes of taking the 2008 WRC drivers' title alive.

Following the two back-to-back asphalt events in Spain and Corsica, Hirvonen now trails Sebastien Loeb by 14 points and with only two rounds in this year's World Rally Championship to go, even if he takes the maximum haul this Sunday that may not be enough to take the battle into December's Wales Rally GB.

Despite the odds being against him though, the 28-year-old hasn't given up and the M-Sport-run outfit was happy with the progress made during a recent four-day gravel test in the south of France. Indeed the squad reported that improvements were made to the Focus RS WRC's differential settings and suspension set-up.

"The test went well and it was a good feeling to be back on gravel. I have to go to Japan and try to win again - it's the only thing I can do to try to keep the championships alive," said Mikko.

"It's going to be almost impossible to take the drivers' title now.

"Even if I win, Sebastien only needs six points. But you never know. As long as mathematically it's possible we will go for it."

This year's Rally Japan meanwhile will be very much a step into the unknown as after four years in Obihiro, it has moved west to Sapporo and will be based at the 43,000-capacity Sapporo Dome, a modern baseball and soccer stadium that hosted the 2002 World Cup.

All of the special stages that make up the 2008 Rally Japan are new to the WRC, but most of the countryside tests have been used for many years in Japan's national championship. Most are based on medium to high-speed gravel forest roads and organisers describe them as flowing with good visibility.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi tyre engineer George Black visited the stages after last year's rally and found them to be undulating.

"Most are quite hilly and although they are not high, they are not really flat. They are reasonably quick but narrow and some are very loose," he explained. "The surface is mostly a pebble type of gravel rather than quarried gravel, although some are compacted, almost like cobblestones, and quite slippery. One of the biggest features will be the carpet of leaves on the surface. All the roads were leaf covered last year and very wet."

Hirvonen though, is not daunted by the prospect and he has a strong record over roads new to the championship, winning in Norway in 2007 and triumphing in Jordan in April. He also claimed the top step of the podium in Japan in 2007, having finished third the previous year.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN), Ford Focus RS WRC07, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Monza, [Credit: Hyundai Motorsport]
Podium 1st Australian - Molly Taylor (AUS) Bill Hayes (AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX Sti
Podium - Volkswagen
Podium - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Podium, 1st Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 2nd Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 3rd Thierry Neuville (BEL) Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC
Podium, 1st Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 2nd Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 3rd Thierry Neuville (BEL) Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC
Podium - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Podium - Volkswagen
Podium - Volkswagen
Podium 1st Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 2nd Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 3rd Thierry Neuville (BEL) Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC
Podium - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Podium - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Sebastien Ogier (FRA) Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC

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Dafydd Larcombe - Unregistered

October 28, 2008 1:14 PM

Actually lets not speculate, Its "FACT" that the Citroen is infact the best allround car as it has by far the most powerful engine - hence its evident dominance of Asphalt where power is more advantagous, the fact that Mikko still has a slight chance of winning the title with two rallies to run makes a powerful statement about Mikko and his ability, I think this year has been exciting even with Loebs victory majority. Its a slim chance but if Ford can lock out the top 4 on the next two events you never know. I think Ford can and should get at least two top two finishes in a row providing we dont have any setbacks. New Zealand really damaged our chances and put us firmly on the backfoot.

rich ard

October 28, 2008 3:52 PM

hirvonnen is only in the position he is due to the use of team orders and stalling tactics on at least three events. he is not there on pure merit. i did not give much credit to duval, yet he is outperforming miko, so maybe he does deserve a full works drive. and finally, comparing seb to schumi, i think that seb is the far superior DRIVER. i doubt that schumi could drive a rally car at loebs speed, whereas seb has raced successfully and is fast on a track.



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