01 Feb 08
Growing up in Finland, Ford's driving team of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila should feel comfortable in the Rally Sweden's snowy conditions.
Hirvonen, second on Rallye Monte Carlo, has five previous Swedish Rally starts to his name and finished third in 2007. The 27-year-old won the championship's last winter rally in Norway in 2007. "Everyone is asking if I feel I'm the favourite," he said. "There are a few possible winners and I'm one of them, but I don't regard myself as the favourite. There's a little pressure, but I felt pressure in Rallye Monte Carlo and had a good result there. This is the first rally that I'm really thinking I have to win if I want to fight for the drivers' title.
"I hope the conditions are full winter. If there's a lot of snow and ice then Pirelli's tyres will work well. Reliability will also be important because there is no traditional 30-minute service in the middle of the day, just a 15-minute remote service using only spare parts carried in the car. I don't agree with that because if a car has a minor problem early in the morning then a driver can be stuck with it for the rest of the day. But the Focus is a reliable car so I'm not too concerned," added Hirvonen.
This is Latvala's fourth Swedish Rally and the 22-year-old is hoping the snow and ice arrives in time. "A proper winter rally is great fun. I've driven many snow rallies and the feeling of driving fast in winter is one that I really enjoy. The conditions are more forgiving and the car spends more time sideways than on a gravel rally, because that style helps to get the car to turn into bends," he said.