Mikko Hirvonen says that he is expecting a closely-fought event as the World Rally Championship hits the halfway point of its 2013 season at Rally d'Italia Sardegna this week.

Hirvonen, who was five times a runner-up in Sardinia before he claimed his first victory there last season, knows that its vitally important to score good points before the WRC heads into its summer break, having struggled for results in the first half of the year.

Although he took second place in both Mexico and Portugal, the Finn's most recent outings - in Argentina and Greece - netted only sixth and eighth place finishes, leaving him a distant fourth in the standings.

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"I think there'll be a real fight at the front, starting in qualifying, especially as the starting positions that we choose will be used for half of the rally," he said of the forthcoming Italian event.

"After a frustrating weekend in Greece, I hope that the pieces of the jigsaw come together to enable us to secure a good result before the summer break."

Hirvonen has pinpointed his win in Sardinia last season as one of the highlights of 2012, but doesn't think it'll come easily this time around.

"After a series of podium finishes, I had pushed hard from the word go - my only goal was to win the rally!" he explained, "However, we have to start from scratch again this year."