Mikko Hirvonen has said he has no regrets about making the move to Citroen this year, even if he has yet to win an event and has had to play a supporting role to eight-time World Rally champion, Sebastien Loeb.
Hirvonen's decision to leave Ford was announced last November and while he conceded it was a tough choice, he reckons it has made him a better driver.
“It has been quite a change,” he told Crash.net
prior to this weekend's Wales Rally GB. “But I am really happy I took the opportunity. It was a good chance to be part of one of the most successful rally teams and I think I have learned a lot. In a way after all those years I drove for Ford, even though it was a shame to leave all the friends and all the boys behind, in a way I felt like I needed a change. It has been really good for me. I am really happy how things are at the moment.
“The team has helped me a lot with making the switch. I thought it would be a lot more difficult to settle in a French team. But they have made me feel really welcome and have been helping me with many things. It has been good and maybe easier [to make the change] than I first thought.”
Hirvonen also added that he has found it enlightening working alongside Loeb: “I was really excited about that at the start of the year,” he continued. “I have always got on with him really well and now I have finally had a chance to compare the data and look at his way of driving and compare my driving style as well and what the differences are on that and on the set-up. It has been a good thing for me and I am starting to get through it.
“I am quite surprised how close our driving styles are. The differences in braking are the main thing and then the other biggest area where he is taking the seconds is he is just so unbelievably consistent all the time. For me that is his main strength. Okay he is really, really fast. But he is consistent as well, very consistent [on every stage]. That is the biggest thing for me to improve.”
As for the year to date, Hirvonen insists he has been happy with his performances, despite the fact he is still searching for a victory.
“I am a little bit disappointed I haven't been able to take my [first] win with Citroen yet. But we have been close and we have had good points. We have had really, really good pace and have been really consistent and so has the team. I have to be happy with that,” he noted.
“The target is to take a win [before the end of the season]. But I am not so concerned about it. At least on many rallies we have been on the pace that we have to be. In some rallies we have just lost by a few seconds or we haven't been fighting all the way through [due to team orders]. At least we have been there, that is the main thing. I really wanted to be at least close to Sebastien's pace in as many rallies as I could and it has been really good [to have done that]. In that way I am quite happy.”
So how will he tackle the events after GB?
“Flat out. In Wales we have a chance to secure the manufacturers' title and okay, I would really like to win the rally, but I really hope we can secure the manufacturers' title as well. I think Spain and France will be really important rallies for me. I really want to do well on tarmac and if we can secure the manufacturers' here, I can do whatever I want on those tarmac rallies and I'd really like that.
“I hope this event goes well and then I can really charge on those rallies at the end of the season,” he summed-up.
To read the full interview with Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen pre-Wales Rally GB - CLICK HERE