Mikko Hirvonen: “Seconds and thirds will not do!”

Enough of this summer break already, it’s been too long. Hopefully everyone and their co-driver managed to relax a bit, surrounded by family and friends, but soon enough everything will be about tenths and tyres again. Because second half of 2013 WRC season gets underway soon. What better way to wake everyone up than to have them do the fastest rally in the calendar, the famous and popular Rally Finland, rally of thousand lakes and about one million jumps, crests and “flat out” sections.

For Mikko Hirvonen, this year is not really one of the best so far. The pressures are many, and are sometimes too easily dismissed by everyone (yours truly included), not involved with the running of the team or driving the actual rally car on actual WRC stages. As drivers often own up to their mistakes, so should we, the fans and ready-made commentators. It’s easy to be the general after the battle, but in the world of very competitive World Rally Championship, sometimes it really comes down to the tiniest of tiny things. And I won’t even touch the infamous “luck factor”. Rally is not the most forgiving kind of sport, and the mistakes are very costly. Sometimes it really might be necessary to line up few wrongs to make it right again, the problem with wrongs is that they are not treated like a wrong pass in football. And they shouldn’t be, because being the best in the world should be all about lining as few wrongs as possible.

Of course, I’m not trying to “rehabilitate” Mikko Hirvonen or Citroën, nor would it make any difference anyway. We’re talking about a winning team and a driver with plenty of rallies under his belt. They know perfectly well what it takes to beat not only the other teams and drivers, but the inner demons and pressures. Instead of giving too much credit to both the team and the driver, I’m just trying to put myself in their shoes for a moment. Sebastien Loeb recently praised Mikko’s consistency, and I am pretty sure Hirvonen is working hard to bring that part of his arsenal back. The fact that Citroën still didn’t reveal the nature of their WRC programme for next year also isn’t actually helping, but guys in the cars and in the factory know they have a job on their hands for the remainder of 2013.

In the meantime, Mikko was very kind to respond to World Rally Blog’s request for a brief Q&A. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to hear and read his thoughts as the season starts it’s engines once again. I’d like to thank Mikko for taking the time to go through these questions and reply.

With so much spare time on your hands, what are you up to these days? All rest and no work? Any barbecue parties?

A little bit rest and a little bit time with my boys and had holidays with them in France. And then, I was happy to go to Goodwood with our team and it was really nice over there. Now we are just getting ready for the test and preparation for Finland.

Next event in WRC calendar is your home rally in Finland. Do I even need to ask about your goals for that particular rally?

No! Of course, we want to win the rally. It’s a fantastic event and a really want to win it and have my first win of the season.

It’s been a difficult year so far, but season is far from over. How do you keep yourself motivated?

I think the fight has been tough with VW but this motivate me even more and we gonna try even harder. We still have a good chance to fight for the manufacturer’s title so we are focused on that.

Are there any meetings scheduled with team bosses and engineers ahead of the second half of the season?

We are always thinking ahead and try to find the best solution to fight and we are all working very hard to find what we can do on the remaining rallies.

Do you believe in flat out approach at this point, or will you consider a more steady pace for the remainder of the season?

I think if we try to secure points and be second and third, it’s not enough. If we want to fight for the title we have to push a little bit more and we have to try harder to be able to win rallies.

For the “Finnish Grand Prix”, how difficult it is to keep pushing over the limit, or is this one of those rallies where you just don’t do that if you want to survive?

For me, all the rallies are the same. You have to find the balance between taking the risks or drive over the limits all the time. And, yes, in Rally Finland that line is a bit thinner than for the other rallies.

The future of Citroën in WRC is still a big unknown to us, I don’t suppose you’re able to share anything to reassure us they’ll be here and strong in 2014?

I don’t know. What I know for the moment is that we are here this year and we try to concentrate on coming rallies.

Consistency was always mentioned to be one of your strongest treats, what can you do to bring it back?

Opponents have been really strong this year and I had to push my limits as well to be able to fight against them. And sometimes it’s not so easy.

Not being WRC drivers, we’re all too eager to dismiss luck as a factor, but really, if a big stone gets kicked by the car ahead, and ends up in your line, we can call it bad luck, right?

In a way we can say that.

Recently you mentioned you love American cars. Which is your favourite?

There are so many different American cars that it’s difficult to choose just one. I love many of them!

Which WRC car from the past would you like to have a go in, at competitive speed?
Of course it would be nice to go in all of them! :-)

Quick one: Lancia Delta HF Integrale or Subaru Impreza?

Lancia Delta!