World Rally Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen admitted he was lucky to escape a moment during his Rally of Portugal test, which could have cost Ford its third test car in as many events.
Hirvonen smashed the right-rear wheel on his Fiesta RS WRC while preparing for the third round of the World Rally Championship, but he says it could have been much worse. Hirvonen's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala has already suffered substantial accidents before the first two rounds of the season.
Hirvonen, who has finished first and second so far this year, said: "It could have been the same as some of the tests before. We were lucky it didn't roll. It was a very fast left-hand corner, where we just ran a little bit wide. We hit the right-rear, losing the wheel and brakes – it took us a little bit longer than we had thought to slow the car down! It took about an hour to get the car running again, but this didn't spoil the build up to the event at all."
Despite that incident, Hirvonen says his two days in the test Fiesta have given him more confidence ahead of the Faro-based rally.
"We have been able to find a few things with the suspension and the differentials, which is good news. I have good confidence for this event," he added.
Running first on the road, Hirvonen is not pleased with the weather forecast which is for dry conditions throughout the rally. Following the recce, however, the Finn is optimistic for his chances running ahead of the field.
"Some of the stages have been regraded," he said, "which means more loose gravel for us to sweep, but not all of them. Some of the roads on Friday look pretty good. I don't want to say this rally is going to be better than Mexico, just in case I'm a minute behind again on Friday night, then I would look like a total idiot!"