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Hirvonen: We must
tread carefully

Twice Rally Sweden winner Mikko Hirvonen fears next week’s event could be tough for tyres as soft snow will place high demands on studded rubber.

After a mild start to 2014, heavy snow fell in the Varmland area this week but there is little ice protecting the roads beneath the white stuff.

Stud retention could be an issue if the spikes tear up the roads and exposed gravel rips them from their mountings to leave minimal traction.

“I believe there is about 40cm of snow so we’ll have good winter conditions,” said Hirvonen. “But there’s not much ice underneath so if it stays like that it’s going to be really tough for tyres.”

Hirvonen, rally winner in 2010 and 2011, was encouraged after a 450km test in a Ford Fiesta RS at Kall in northern Sweden ended today. It was the 33-year-old Finn’s first loose surface test since returning to M-Sport from Citroen.

“The Fiesta didn’t feel so much different from what I remember when I drove it before. It was always good on fast stages, it was always one of our strong points and it feels the same.

“The roads at Kall were good and it was perfect preparation to find the pace and get a good feeling with the car on fast roads,” Hirvonen told wrc.com.

Mikko Hirvonen at Rallye Monte-Carlo

He retired in the final stage of the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo and admitted conditions ensured it was a tough way in which to reacclimatise himself with the Fiesta.

“I think I was a bit lost in Monte Carlo,” he said. “The car felt good in testing and I was happy, but after two days in dry conditions and good grip, conditions in the rally were totally different.

“It was a difficult way in which to try to get on the pace but hopefully Sweden will be better,” he added.