Mikko eyes repeat

Mikko Hirvonen will be gunning for victory on Rally Norway this week as he bids to kick-start his championship challenge and take the fight to five-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb.

Hirvonen had to settle for third place on the opening round in Ireland and knows it is essential he makes the most of the switch to snow.

The 28-year-old won the inaugural Rally Norway back in 2007 and a repeat of that now would be perfectly timed for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team number one.

"I scored solid points on the first round in Ireland earlier this month and now I really want to get down to business on a rally and in conditions that I enjoy,” he stated.

“In 2007 the stages were enjoyable, but at the same time they were extremely difficult too.

“I recall one stage that I drove in a blizzard and that was the first occasion in which I had encountered conditions like that.

“Ireland was a difficult start to the year because of heavy rain but I'm sure I'll feel more comfortable in Norway's snow – conditions in which we know the Focus excels."

All of the competitors meanwhile will have to use Pirelli's new version of its Sottozero winter tyre this weekend, which will be available with 7mm studs to penetrate the snow and bite into the ice beneath.

The tyre has been designed in a wider format than is usual for a winter pattern to enable teams to use it with the standard 15-inch wheel rims used on all other loose surface rounds of the championship. The tread blocks are spread slightly wider as a result.

Hirvonen tested the new tyre for the first time in December, and was delighted with the Focus RS WRC cars performance.

"The tyre felt extremely stable and the Focus seemed better under braking than on the narrower tyre we used previously," he said. "In normal winter conditions I believe we could be faster so I have no concerns about its introduction.

“Start order could play an important part though because I think this new tyre will work best on cleaner roads, so drivers lower down the order could benefit,” he added.

Related Pictures

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Mikko Hirvonen (FIN), Ford Focus RS WRC08, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

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