10 Jun 08
BP-Ford team leader Mikko Hirvonen says he doesn’t envy Sebastien Loeb’s position as first driver through the opening day’s stages of this week’s Rally of Turkey.
Hirvonen says that if the loose gravel roads stay dry, his title rival could pay a heavy price for leading the Championship by just one point.
"I really hope that it stays dry because that means that Sebastien will be first in the start order in the worst of the conditions,” said Hirvonen. “I've struggled in that position on the last two rallies during the first day so it will be interesting to see how he copes.”
Hirvonen, who finished second on the rally in 2006, admitted that given the choice he wouldn’t swap places with Loeb. “I prefer this situation of being a point behind him in the championship and having a better start position, than being a point ahead and having to start ahead of him," he said.
Winner of the manufacturers’ title in 2006 and 2007, the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi team heads into the rally with a two-point advantage over Citroen-Total in this year’s standings - the closest the competition has been all year.
Crucial to the team’s fortunes in Turkey will be the performance of its second driver, Jari-Matti Latvala. The 23-year-old Finn has tackled the Turkish event just once before, in 2004, but believes that his lack of experience of the roads might assist his points-scoring efforts.
"Maybe I'm not able to attack as much as in Italy and Greece because my experience isn't high but possibly that will help,” said Latvala. “If I'm not attacking as hard, it might help me have a clean run through the stages. In Greece I learned that I need to find a way to drive fast when road conditions are good, but when it is rougher I need to back off but remain fully competitive. A podium is my target and I won't be disappointed if I'm not able to fight for victory.”