Toni Gardemeister believes that Mikko Hirvonen has what it takes to secure the 2009 WRC drivers' title.
Gardemeister was a frustrated spectator at the recent Neste Oil Rally Finland, but while he was disappointed not to be competing himself, he was impressed with his fellow countryman, who eventually took the honours on the ninth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship by 25.1 seconds.
Indeed Gardemeister is tipping Hirvonen to go all the way now and stop Sebastien Loeb from winning his sixth title on the trot, providing that is, he does well on the next event, the Repco Rally Australia, which runs from September 2-6.
"Mikko has done a very good job this year, especially in Finland. I was there as a spectator and he was very aggressive and pushing to the limit. It looks good," Toni said in an interview with Crash.net Radio
"He can win the title. But the next event in Australia is very crucial and who finishes first there I think will win the championship."
Asked about the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's other flying Finn, Jari-Matti Latvala, Gardemeister noted that while he has obviously had a tough season, he has shown a lot of promise.
"Jari-Matti has had a really difficult year with a lot of mistakes - and he and the team have lost a lot of points as a result. That is not so good," Gardemeister continued.
"But at least he has done some good stage times and taken one overall win. That is really promising. Hopefully he will get his consistency - and confidence back now."
As for the future of the World Rally Championship, Toni is optimistic about the way things are shaping up and thinks we should see more teams involved in 2011.
"It is a pity that there is no Monte Carlo [on the 2010 WRC calendar]. In any good championship you need the Monte because it is legendary. Everybody knows about it and everybody follows it. But when there are a little bit less than 16 or 15 events, when there are 12 or 13, it is better for the teams and hopefully that will bring more in there," he noted.
"Hopefully the WRC will go in a better way now. There are only a few teams at the moment. But I think the future is quite promising.
"Maybe not next year, but in 2011 and 2012, there will possibly be more teams because the cars will be a little bit cheaper than now. Maybe there will be even more private teams too, which will bring more competition for the championship."
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH TONI GARDEMEISTER: CLICK HERE