x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Rally geared up for UAE

Mikko Hirvonen would relish the prospect of Abu Dhabi being added to the World Rally calendar.

The BP-Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen has not given up his title hopes yet.
The BP-Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen has not given up his title hopes yet.

Mikko Hirvonen would relish the prospect of Abu Dhabi being added to the World Rally calendar in the near future. The Finn, 28, who lies second with four races left of the 2008 championship, believes an Abu Dhabi rally could be a WRC possibility within three years. Abu Dhabi has already formed lucrative ties with the World Rally Championship, as the official destination partner of the series and also as the lead sponsor of Hirvonen's BP-Ford team.

And Hirvonen said the team had already benefited from the link. "The most important thing is that Abu Dhabi's backing has helped Malcolm Wilson [the boss] and the team so much. The atmosphere is better than ever before." Of his hopes of a rally in Abu Dhabi Hirvonen said: "I don't think it's a goal for the WRC at the moment but it'd be a great destination. It would be a different kind of rally to anything we've got right now and, as drivers, you always want to test yourselves on different terrains.

"And if the people in Abu Dhabi decide they want to be on the WRC then that could easily be a possibility in three or four years." Hirvonen has been flying the flag for the team all season. He lies just eight points behind Sebastien Loeb in the championship standings after two wins this season - in Jordan and Turkey - and a series of consistently high finishes. The gap should have been just two points but Hirvonen punctured late during his last rally in New Zealand last month, losing him valuable time and points in the championship battle.

Despite the points deficit, he insisted the title was still the goal. "You never know what's going to happen in the championship so I'll keep on fighting until it is no longer mathematically possible for me to win the title," he added. Hirvonen is likely to have the upper hand over Loeb on the final two rallies of the season - in Japan and Great Britain, rallies the Finn won a year ago en route to third in the championship race. But he admitted he would have his work cut out to beat the Frenchman at the next rally in Spain. mmajendie@thenational.ae