x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

BP-Ford team hope for happy birthdays all round

The BP-Ford Abu Dhabi team hope "home advantage" will help them mark their first year by extending their lead at the top.

The race in Jyvaskyla is traditionally dominated by Finnish drivers, so having Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala in their ranks is a big plus for the team.
The race in Jyvaskyla is traditionally dominated by Finnish drivers, so having Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala in their ranks is a big plus for the team.

The BP-Ford Abu Dhabi team hope "home advantage" will help them mark their first year in the sport by extending their lead at the top of the World Rally Championship (WRC) standings. The Rally Finland is famous as one of the most prestigious stops on the calendar, and this weekend marks one year of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's sponsorship of the team. The race in Jyvaskyla is traditionally dominated by Finnish drivers, so having Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala in their ranks is a big plus for the team.

Of the 57 years of the rally, it has only been won by non-Finns six times. Hirvonen heads into the weekend at the top of the drivers standings, three points clear of Sebastian Loeb. He turns 28 on Thursday, when he will drive new parts of the course for the first time as part of the shakedown practice session, and said a home win would be the best birthday present. "My family and friends will all be out watching and it would be a fantastic feeling to stand on top of the podium in front of them on Sunday afternoon," he said. "But there are other drivers capable of stopping me doing that.

"There is a little more pressure on me in Finland than other rallies, but it is nothing I can't cope with. "This rally is all about bravery, trust in the pace notes and accuracy. There is no room for mistakes." This will be Hirvonen's seventh time at Jyvaskyla, with his best finish second in last year's event. His teammate Lattvala is third in the title race, and is also keen to make his mark in front of family and friends.

"It would be special to win on home ground," he said. "Victory here is more highly regarded than in some other rallies. "I will need to drive flat out from start to finish without mistakes." @Email:lthornhill@thenational.ae