BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen has said that his form on day one in Finland could be crucial if he is to win his home event and notch up his third victory in succession.
Hirvonen heads to the ninth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship at the top of the drivers' standings having overhauled Sebastien Loeb following the Rally Poland. With just one point between the two though it couldn't be much closer and with only four rounds left - three on gravel and one on asphalt - every event will be important.
Hirvonen has competed on the 'Finnish Grand Prix' seven times to date, and while he has yet to win it, he has finished on the rostrum three times.
Furthermore last year he enjoyed a good fight with Loeb and while he ultimately had to settle for the runners-up spot, he certainly made the Frenchman work for the ten points and was just 9 seconds adrift at the finish.
Now Hirvonen will want 'revenge' and following a four-day test in Finland last week, during which he ran for the first two days, competing around 1000 kilometres in total, he should definitely be ready.
However he will be at a disadvantage, at least on the opening leg, as he will have to run first on the road, a 'reward' for being the championship leader.
"The view I'm taking is that the season is now a mini-four round championship with three rallies on gravel and one on asphalt. I'm leading by a point so the outcome is in my own hands,” said Hirvonen, who will celebrate his 29th birthday this Friday.
“First in the start order for the opening leg isn't the easiest position to be, but I'll have to deal with that. I lost the rally last year by dropping time from the same position on the opening leg so I need to overcome that.
"The time differences on this rally are always small and if a driver wins a stage by five seconds then that's a huge gap, so even a small mistake can prove costly.
“Also the speeds are so high that a big mistake often results in an accident. When you're flat out, and fighting hard for tenths of a second you often find surprises on jumps or corners that you think you know well.
“The car can fly further or higher and those are the kind of surprises that can bring problems," he warned.
STOP PRESS: Crash.net Radio's Rob Wilkins spoke exclusively to Mikko Hirvonen recently. To listen to the interview in full: CLICK HERE