Mikko Hirvonen admits that the starting order could play a vital role in the outcome of the sixth round of the World Rally Championship this weekend in Sardinia.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver has a strong record on the Italian event having finished on the podium in second place for the past three seasons.

With Sebastien Loeb having taken victory on each event so far this season, Hirvonen will now look to take the fight to the Frenchman in the challenging gravel event and he admitted that the starting order for the event - with Hirvonen starting day one third on the road - would play an important role in deciding the winner.

"The roads are quite narrow sometimes and although their nature is good, I prefer tracks that have a little more width to them," he said. "There are also many sections with rocks, bushes and trees located on the very edge of the road. Branches often overhang the road and in corners they can obscure the driver's view of the exit.

"If it's dry then start order will be important. The surface will be covered with slippery loose gravel and the early starters will clean that away to the benefit of those behind. I will be third to start on Friday, which I think will be a very good position. I wouldn't like to be first in the order on Saturday. This could be a rally where it is best to attack from behind as the weekend goes on."

Hirvonen was due to complete a comprehensive test over the weekend alongside team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, while ex-Ford driver Marko Martin spent time at the wheel of the Focus on Thursday and Friday to aid preparations for the Sardinian event.

"To ensure the team is extracting every possible gramme of efficiency from the Focus RS WRC, we invited Markko to work with Mikko and Jari-Matti on this test," team director Malcolm Wilson said, "We benefited from Markko's testing expertise when he drove for Ford and adding his skills to that of Mikko and Jari-Matti can only benefit our preparations for this event."