x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Hirvonen hopes for home win at Rally of Finland

Mikko Hirvonen is hoping home advantage will supply him with a winning hand in this weekend's Rally of Finland.

Mikko Hirvonen is hoping home advantage will supply him with a winning hand in this weekend's Rally of Finland.

In its 60 years of existence this ultra-demanding leg of the World Rally Championship has only been won seven times by non-Finnish drivers, the last being Sebastien Loeb of France in 2008.

Hirvonen, who hails from Jyvaskyla, the town around which the rally runs, captured it in 2009 but crashed out last year.

The 30 year old said: "A win here is important, not only because I live close by but also because I need to get as many points on the board as I can."

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver is placed second in this year's title race, 17 points behind Loeb, the multiple world champion, after seven of the 13 rallies.

Hirvonen's fellow Finn and teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala, said that it helped to have nerves of steel in a contest where the slightest mistake can spell disaster.

"You have to control any feeling of fear," said Latvala, for whom this event signals a personal milestone being his 100th rally. "The pace of this rally is so high that each error is magnified. To win here you need to drive perfectly from the first to the last bend."

Loeb, vying for his fourth win of the season, agreed, saying: "When I won here in 2008 I had to be at 200 per cent.

"It's not my favourite circuit," said the Citroen driver.

His compatriot and teammate, Sebastien Ogier, is also sitting on three wins this year putting him in third in the drivers' race.

The 27 year old believes a non-local win is on the cards.

"We know it's one of the hardest rallies of the year up against the Finns, but it's not impossible to beat them."

The first three special stages take place today.