Mikko Hirvonen enjoyed a good pre-event test for Rally Sweden this week and is now feeling positive ahead of the WRC's only true winter event.
Hirvonen has returned to the M-Sport fold this season, but struggled on Rallye Monte Carlo earlier this month and was running in a rather lacklustre sixth place, when electrical problems sidelined him in the final stage [see separate story - HERE
His focus now is to 'get back to his best' and 'challenge for top positions' and he certainly knows how to deliver in Sweden. Indeed he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen have contested the rally on ten previous occasions – making the podium no fewer than five times and winning the event with Ford and M-Sport in both 2010 and 2011.
“We've just completed a really good test and I'm feeling good,” said Hirvonen in the countdown to the second round in the 2014 World Rally Championship. “We knew from past experience that the Fiesta [RS WRC] would be really strong in the high-speed sections, and it was great to see that I had that same good feeling straight away.”
“Rally Sweden is extra fun when it's really cold and there is a lot of snow – there's nothing better than bouncing your car off the compacted snow banks at high speed. Although the region has had some good snow fall recently, there might not be much ice and that could be tricky. It means that there will be a lot of gravel coming through the snow which makes tyre management really important,” he continued.
“I've won this rally twice before, but I wouldn't say that there was much of a secret to doing well here. It used to favour the Scandinavians, but I think last year proved that that is no longer the case and anyone can be quick here [as it was a battle between two Frenchmen, Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb].
“The main thing to remember is to really commit to the stages. Especially in the high-speed sections, you need the confidence to go flat-out. It's one of those events where a driver needs to really attack, but in the narrow sections you also have to be very precise. There's a very narrow line that forms, and if you venture off that line you can easily find yourself in trouble.
“I really hope that we can get back to our best next week and be challenging for the top positions. Monte-Carlo was a really tricky event for us, so now I'm really looking forward to Sweden where I think we can be competitive. We're certainly determined to show what we can do.”