After being stripped of his first place on Vodafone Rally de Portugal in April following a technical infringement, Hirvonen could be winless in the WRC for the first time since 2005 if he fails to top the podium on either of the the season-closing rounds in Italy or Spain at the wheel of his Citroen DS3 WRC.
“Although third would be enough to make sure I finish as runner-up in the world championship, I’d rather do it in style,” said the Finn, who will finish second in the title race with third place in Sardinia. “We have done an awful lot of work with the team to try and match my driving style to the set-up of the DS3 WRC. After having made a breakthrough on Tarmac at the last rally, I hope to improve further on gravel.”
Hirvonen expects a tough fight on Rally Italia Sardegna, and not only from Citroen team-mate and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, the winner on the Mediterranean island in 2011.
“It won’t only be Sebastien,” said Hirvonen. “Jari-Matti [Latvala] is always really fast and Petter [Solberg] too. Mads Ostberg, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak can all be fast when everything works for them. Everybody wants to win this rally so it could be really eventful.”
Hirvonen, who will run sixth on the road through stages one and two, has never won in Sardinia but remains a huge fan of the Olbia-based round. “I like the challenge here,” he said. “It’s really difficult with most stages narrow and technical. It’s also a slippery surface but because it’s consistently slippery then it’s not too bad.”