Hirvonen relishes the dunes: "The real Dakar has begun"

X-raid Mini driver Mikko Hirvonen voiced his excitement over the challenging start to the second week of the Dakar Rally after Monday's eighth stage.

Hirvonen relishes the dunes: "The real Dakar has begun"
#315 Mini: Mikko Hirvonen, Michel Perin
#315 Mini: Mikko Hirvonen, Michel Perin
Mikko Hirvonen, X-Raid Team
#315 Mini: Mikko Hirvonen, Michel Perin
#315 Mini: Mikko Hirvonen, Michel Perin
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After the first week of the event, several competitors had qualms about the 2016 format, most notably truck class leader Gerard de Rooy, owing to its reliance on WRC-style tracks, a claim backed up by Peugeot's Carlos Sainz.

However, Dakar sporting director Marc Coma was confident that the rally would 'change completely' in the second week, and that it would feature more off-piste mileage.

And Hirvonen, who currently sits fourth in the standings in his maiden Dakar, expressed his enjoyment at the proper 'off road' experience of Monday's 767km Salta-Belen stage.

"In a way I enjoyed it [Stage 8] the most compared to what we have had so far in the rally - proper off road," said the Finn.

"We had really rough places and it was slower, twisty and tricky, so I really enjoyed it. The real Dakar has begun."

He added: "In the first week, we used roads that were more similar to the WRC. The dunes, high temperatures is what we expected, but despite being known [in advance], it was not easy.

"I have quite a lot to learn in some areas, but we have done pretty well with no big mistakes, which will help us ahead."

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