M-Sport World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen may have failed in his ambition to stand on the podium at every round of the 2014 WRC, but is hoping to continue a recent run of success on Rallye Deutschland next weekend.
The Finn has been plagued by misfortune this season but, having finished on the podium three times in Germany, will be determined to prove a point on the first all-tarmac event of the year.
The asphalt demands respect and there are few more experienced than Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, who know what it takes to tame the daunting roads of the Rhineland and will apply all of their knowledge in pursuit of a strong result.
“It's going to be an interesting rally,” Hirvonen insisted, “I really enjoyed the Fiesta in the tricky conditions in 2011, so it will be good to see how it handles on asphalt this year.
“We've been hoping to be on the podium at every event this year but, for various reasons, it hasn't quite come together. We know it will be tough [in Germany], but if everything comes together and we can be up there fighting, it would be absolutely perfect.”
Those in the hunt for the top positions need to be on the pace throughout each variation of the rally's diverse character. There's no resting on laurels in Germany and complete trust in car and safety crew is essential. Drivers need to settle into a comfortable rhythm amid the threat of being left behind. Each mud-strewn bend and deceptive cut must be attacked with blind faith, with the ever-present risk of bringing their rally to an untimely end.
“There's no getting away from the fact that Germany is a challenging event,” Hirvonen, who lies fifth in the standings, continued, “The grip levels are constantly changing and you have to understand the road and the changes in conditions.
“As we saw last year, it can sometimes be a rally of survival, but finding the right balance between survival and setting the good times is really tricky. Even if it's dry, we need to remember that we are rallying through working vineyards, so there is always a lot of gravel on the road. Then, when it rains, a lot of mud gets pulled out from the cuts…..
“The biggest challenge is being committed through the cuts. You need to be really brave and have complete trust in your car and your safety crew. Thankfully, my safety crew have done a fantastic job for me this year.”