Mikko Hirvonen, driver of the World Rally BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS, leads the driver standings by just one point. With only Wales Rally GB left in the season, Hirvonen looks to end 2009 with a championship title. MIKKO HIRVONEN - BP Ford Abu...
Mikko Hirvonen, driver of the World Rally BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS, leads the driver standings by just one point. With only Wales Rally GB left in the season, Hirvonen looks to end 2009 with a championship title.
MIKKO HIRVONEN - BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS
How does it feel to be leading the championship with only one round to go?
"It feels great, but I have led the championship before. I've just not led it with only one event to go. I'm trying not to think about it until the rally is over in Cardiff. Hopefully, the team will be having a big party, though."
Do you feel like you're under pressure?
"Not at the moment, no. It's just really exciting. I actually have a chance to win and I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground. It will be a hard fight. I'm not underestimating the job I need to do in Wales, but I have no expectations at all and that way I've taken the pressure away, I've put it on the side. We've had a good feeling for the last six events and I've proved things to myself that I needed to do. That's also taken some of the pressure away."
At what point this year did you feel you could challenge Loeb and take the title?
"I started the season thinking I could do it. Then when we finished in Argentina and we scored no points, I virtually gave up. It was only after we won in Greece that I started to hope again. In Poland, after Loeb went off and we moved into the championship lead, I knew we were back in the fight. So Poland was the big turning point in my mind. I always knew it would be difficult - he's a five-time champion."
Has anything changed in your mind since last year?
"Nothing has changed. I knew I could challenge him if we had perfect rallies and more experience and confidence behind us. We've driven some really good rallies this season. Even when he was winning events, we were right behind him in second place. I've challenged him on so many stages and I knew I could do it."
What have you been doing since Spain two weeks ago?
"Immediately after the rally I did a passenger ride event for BP and Castrol in Spain. I've been spending some time with my family and done quite a few media interviews and appearances. We tested in Cambria two days earlier in the week to find a good set-up for Rally GB, and I'm feeling comfortable with the car. We're driving in the Cambrian Rally as a course car this weekend. The roads are similar to those we're going to experience in Rally GB, so it will be a good experience after the asphalt in Spain. I won the Cambrian back in 2002, so I'm looking forward to going back there."
If you had a choice of any event on which to challenge Loeb, what would it be?
"It would have to be Finland. At your home event you have an added confidence and knowledge of the roads. Rally GB would definitely be second on the list, though. It's a fantastic event and I love driving there. The roads really suit me. They are fast and flowing and at this time of year they won't be covered in ice or snow, so they should be perfect."
Are you concerned at all about starting Rally GB first on the road?
"No, not at all. It's not the sort of rally where there is a massive difference between running first, second or third on the road. If it's really muddy then first on the road is the best place to be, and if it's dry and dusty, then first is also best. So, I'm happy with starting first."