BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen has insisted that he doesn't feel under more pressure now, despite having taken the lead in the drivers' championship last time out in Poland.

Hirvonen now heads to the Rally Finland later this month, the ninth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship, with a slender one-point advantage over Sebastien Loeb and with just four events left - three on gravel and one on asphalt - the Finn is well placed to mount a serious bid for the 2009 drivers' title.

Indeed coming off the back of two wins in succession and with the 'home' advantage on the next event, he is justifiably confident about his prospects.

"It is going to be nice to be in the lead for Finland and things have definitely turned around in the last few events," Hirvonen said in an exclusive interview with Crash.net Radio. "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.

"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."

Hirvonen has competed on the '1000 Lakes' seven times and although he has done well, and has finished on the podium three times, he has yet to win.

Last year he was second to Loeb and so now he will be keen to try and put the record straight. Indeed as BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson put in a separate interview with Crash.net Radio he will be out to 'get revenge' [see separate story - click here].

Furthermore Hirvonen's bid to win on home soil has been aided by revisions to the route - and around 30 per cent is new for 2009. That should be a real bonus - especially given Sebastien Loeb seems to struggle a bit on new stages, as shown recently in Poland and Greece.

So will that play into Hirvonen's hands?

"Yeah, maybe," Hirvonen added, "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. 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."

As for the season to date, Hirvonen noted that while the start was difficult - with Loeb winning five events in succession - the momentum has definitely shifted since Sardinia.

"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," he continued.

"We had a good test over there and since then we have won all the rallies - with Jari-Matti [Latvala - my team-mate] 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."

So what will be the key to beating Loeb?

"It is basically four rallies left now 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.

"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," Hirvonen summed-up.



Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment