21 Apr 08
BP-Ford Abu-Dhabi team leader Mikko Hirvonen says he is relishing the prospect of attacking the roads of Rally Jordan because they resemble the ones of his home country, Finland.
Although the two countries don’t have much in common at first glance, Hirvonen says the character of their rally stages looks similar, which could help him in his quest to retake the lead of the drivers’ championship.
"I've never been there but I've spoken to some drivers who have and seen photographs from our team, who visited the candidate rally last year," he said. "The roads look smooth and it seems as though the organisers have done a good job in preparing them. They look fast and flowing, like Finland but without the jumps, so if that's the case they should be good for me.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Hirvonen lost the lead of the drivers' championship to Sebastien Loeb on the last WRC round in Argentina. He got off to a good start, however, and after four stages held a 50.8 second rally lead. But he slid off the road soon after and broke the suspension of his Ford Focus RS WRC. Hirvonen re-joined as a SuperRally entry and eventually finished fifth, to collect four championship points.
Following a frustrating time on Rally Mexico, when he failed to match the pace of Loeb or his own team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, Hirvonen thinks his speed is again good enough to worry Loeb. “I was happier with my speed on the first morning during the last round in Argentina,” he said. The poor conditions probably helped me initially, but when they improved I still took some time from Sebastien Loeb and so it was definitely an improvement."
Whether he’s in the fight for the lead of Rally Jordan or not, Hirvonen predicts the final day could be a sting in the tail. "Sunday is the longest of the rally, which is quite different to most events,” he said. “If a driver has large time gaps in front or behind then there will be more kilometres than usual in which to keep an eye on things. But if the time gaps are just 20 or 30 seconds, there could still be a lot to fight for on the final day.”