Interview with Mikko Hirvonen, vice rally world champion
What is your opinion about the next year’s World Cup transition to Super2000 equipment? Moreover, after winning the Monte Carlo IRC stage behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000, you have something to compare with. Won’t you miss the Focus WRC?
Mikko Hirvonen: Naturally, I will miss him. Those cars that we have now are the fastest cars in the history of the rally. But Focus has been with us for 5 years, so it’s time to try something new, and I, too, are certainly pleased with it. It seems to me that this is also interesting. Perhaps the first Super-cars will be a little slower today, but in a few years, I am sure we will be faster than ever.
What do you think about the IRC championship and the level of pilot training for this championship? After all, in the same Monte Carlo, you brought nearly two minutes to the nearest opponent.
Mikko Hirvonen: It seems to me that all pilots deserve participation in the WRC. Perhaps Monte-Carlo is not the best example for comparison, since much depends on the tires and their choice, so it’s wrong to compare all in this case. But still there are a lot of good pilots. Yes, they are fast – just maybe not so experienced, but I am sure that if they all had the opportunity to speak at the WRC, then they can really be competing. This is a great competition.
Mikko, now in the Castrol Driver Rankings, you are in fifth position. How does this rating coincide with your personal opinion and a sense of the power of rivals?
Mikko Hirvonen: (Laughs) I don’t even know, I just never thought about it. Yes, this is a great rating, but … I don’t know, until I reached certain heights to be in the first place. But this is both a dream and a goal towards which we aspire – everything else does not matter. As for my 5th place, it means nothing to me. The fact that I race and compete with the best and fastest in the world already makes me happy.
What type of road surface (snow, ice, gravel, asphalt) do you like best and, consequently, less?
Mikko Hirvonen: It is very funny to ride on the snow and ice. I love both gravel and asphalt. It all depends on the rally, on where you are. But still snow and ice are the most fun.
The advantage of the Citroen team over Ford on the asphalt rally is the merit of the Citroen C4 WRC car, which is better suited to such conditions, or is Loeb and Sordo better able to cope with the asphalt surface than you do with Latvala?
Mikko Hirvonen: I think I need to work more on myself, but, of course, my rivals are good. Every year we are getting closer and closer to them. Naturally, we need to work on the machines. It seems to me that while they are not in the state in which they could compete in full. It seems to me that we are a little behind these two criteria.
This year Latvala was officially secured by the co-pilot. If he leads the race at the end of the final day of the rally, and you are in second position with a delay of up to 30 seconds, will he have to slow down to miss you?
Mikko Hirvonen: We will solve this if this happens. Today, everything is possible. If there is a situation that will lead me to the title, I will think about it.
More compact and less powerful WRC machines next year – is this the right decision or is it still a step backwards? If you had the opportunity to decide which cars for the World Cup would you choose?
Mikko Hirvonen: If this were my choice, then I would choose those cars that we have now – more powerful. After all, these cars are really awesome. But what we have looks good too. Naturally, cars will be cheaper. We need to attract as many automakers as possible to motor racing – if we have more automakers, the number of places for pilots will increase and the level of competition will also increase.
Does the Ford Focus RS WRC have any advantages over the Citroen C4? If so, which ones?
Mikko Hirvonen: I would like to think so. We are very close to each other. Especially on snow and gravel – we are really similar. I do not think that between them there is a big difference.
What would you like to see changes in the WRC regulations?
Mikko Hirvonen: I don’t even know. There are many little things that I would like to change. Well, for example, in order to have rallies longer in time, maybe even a rally for the whole night.
What is the secret of the fact that so many rally world champions were born in such a relatively small country as Finland?
Mikko Hirvonen: I think this is all because of our long history. Rally has become a national sport for us, like hockey and motor sports. Since childhood, boys have the opportunity to skate on frozen lakes. They start from an early age, and we have a lot of them, so we have someone to compete with. More experienced people help the younger. This is primarily a tradition.
What is your relationship with other pilots? Are you dating someone not during a rally?