Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen is confident he has a good chance of winning Rally Mexico next week, although he doesn't believe he is 'yet at the stage where a win there is a matter of life or death'.
Hirvonen has had a tough start to the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship, and while he took fourth place on the season opener in Monte Carlo, his performance was still far from impressive. He also bombed out in Sweden earlier this month and while he should have been one of the front runners, his mistake in the first proper stage – when he went off and got stuck in a snow bank, losing over 20 minutes – put him out of contention.
Mexico then will be crucial, whatever he publicly says, and with Sebastien Loeb not in action, the pressure will be greater too, as the Finn will assume the role of Citroen's de-facto number one for the very first time.
“I think they are really good,” Hirvonen told the official WRC site, wrc.com
, when quizzed about his prospects of winning in Leon. “I know that the car, the team and Jarmo [Lehtinen – my co-driver] and I are competitive enough to fight for the win.
“Of course it's not going to be easy, however, and we're expecting a big challenge. Volkswagen showed their pace in Sweden and I believe they are going to be fast in Mexico as well. Ford have always been really fast in Mexico too. To win we need to go there and fight hard.”
“I reckon there are five who will be fighting for the lead or near the top: Jari-Matti Latvala, Sebastien Ogier, Dani Sordo and Mads Ostberg are all in with a chance. Then there's Evgeny Novikov who has been on a good pace too in the last couple of rallies. It's going to be exciting,” he added.
Hirvonen currently lies only joint sixth in the drivers' championship with 12 points on the board, but despite being 34 behind current leader, Ogier, he is adamant there is still plenty of time to make up the deficit.
“It would be nice to win but there's still a long season ahead and many things can happen along the way. Of course there's a big gap now to the leader of the championship, so it would make everybody feel better if we get a good result next week and get more points than our biggest rivals, but we're not yet at the stage where a win in Mexico is a matter of life or death,” he concluded.