x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hirvonen can inherit rally title rights from Loeb in 2013

Mikko Hirvonen at present is arguably a good driver, but not a great. Fifteen wins demands respect but to get to the next level he must take control of the team, Graham Caygill explains.

Mikko Hirvonen will be on one of three Abu Dhabi-branded Citroen DS3 WRCs that will go into action in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Mikko Hirvonen will be on one of three Abu Dhabi-branded Citroen DS3 WRCs that will go into action in the Monte Carlo Rally.

It has been five years in the making but this will be the year that Mikko Hirvonen finally wins the World Rally Championship.

Well, it ought to be anyway.

He led the Ford team for four years and served as a solid teammate to Sebastien Loeb last year with Citroen, beaten only by the Frenchman in the standings.

The time is now for the 32 year old, because without wishing to put too much untold pressure on the chap, he will never have a better opportunity as the team leader of the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in 2013.

The team know how to win. They have just won nine titles on the trot with Loeb.

There is no reason to suspect that while it is the end of the era, with Loeb only doing four rallies this year as he slowly bids farewell to the series, Citroen will not be on the pace and Hirvonen has the chance to step up.

Hirvonen at present is arguably a good driver, but not a great.

Fifteen wins demands respect but to get to the next level he must take control of the team. Ideally beating Loeb this weekend would be a good start, but a safe second behind him would be acceptable.

The main threat this season comes from the Volkswagen pair of Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ogier is the more probable title rival, but given this is only the second year of the Volkswagen programme it will be a tall order for the German manufacturer to build a car fast and reliable enough to beat Citroen over 13 rounds.

So it really does look good for Hirvonen. Now all he has to do is go and win it.

No pressure.

gcaygill@thenational.ae

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