Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are keeping their cool under mounting pressure as the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship Drivers’ title battle speeds towards a nail-biting conclusion.
Following Rallye de France, Hirvonen and Sébastien Loeb are tied at the top of the drivers’ standings on 196 points each, with Sébastien Ogier three points in arrears. With two rounds remaining in Spain and GB, the experienced Hirvonen is refusing to let nerves get the better of him as he bids to drive his Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to championship glory.
The 31-year-old Finn duelled Loeb for the 2009 crown, a battle which was only decided in the very last stage of the Rally GB season finale.
“I’m not feeling too nervous, I feel pretty confident and relaxed about the whole situation. There’s nothing to lose now,” he said.
Hirvonen was edged out two years ago by just a single point and admits he does not want to repeat such bitter disappointment this time around.
“Missing out on the title by just one point after 12 rounds and thousands of kilometres around the globe was heart-breaking. I don’t want to go through that again. We have to drive flat-out and if we were to win in Spain, it would make things look very good going to the final round in Britain.
“We don’t have any testing before Spain, but I still feel good about it. It’s going to be such a different situation in Spain compared to France, and I’m very much looking forward to having a proper fight and attacking for the title,” he added
Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson backed Hirvonen to come out of the blocks in feisty form in Spain, agreeing that a strong first day will be key to the final outcome. He is confident his charge will take the battle to Loeb on the event’s gravel and asphalt tests.
“Mikko’s third place in France means we are effectively starting again from scratch heading into the last two rallies of the season,” said Wilson. “There will be no room for any errors from the three title contenders. Jari-Matti Latvala’s string of stage wins on asphalt in France was a confidence boost for the team, and Mikko is determined to prove he is capable of the same kind of form in Spain. It’s all to play for!”
Rally de España, the penultimate round of the season, is based in Salou on 20 – 23 October. The championship closes at Rally GB in Builth Wells, Wales, on 10 – 13 November.