Mikko Hirvonen says he is full of confidence heading into the opening round of the World Rally Championship in Sweden.
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver, who has a best finish of second in the event, heads into the new season looking to try and end Sebastien Loeb's run of championship glory – with the Frenchman having secured six successive titles.
Hirvonen came close to ending the Frenchman's dominant run last year only to finish the season just one point behind and he admitted that he will be more aggressive during the season ahead in the quest to lift the crown.
"On occasions I wasn't brave enough to make the decisions I needed to with my car set-up or to drive more aggressively," he said. "I've learned from that and this year there will be no second thoughts. The difference between myself and the title winner last year was a single point. That translates to tiny decisions on the stages but it's those small things that make the difference between winning and coming second, and when you're brave enough to take the chances, you can feel the difference.
"Sweden is a great rally for me to start the year. A driver can be more free in the snow because there is no need to be quite so precise with driving lines as on gravel or asphalt. You can carry more speed into the corners and use the snow banks to guide the car round. The grip is incredible. If the ice is slightly soft then the studded tyres bite really well and it's a crazy feeling to drive so fast in such slippery conditions, knowing there is as much grip as on a gravel road.”
Hirvonen heads to Sweden with one win under his belt already this season, having taken victory in the opening round of the IRC season in Monte Carlo at the wheel of an M-Sport run Fiesta S2000.