Mikko Hirvonen has pledged to be "braver" this year in his bid to beat Sebastien Loeb to the World Rally Championship title.
Ford driver Hirvonen came within one point of halting Loeb's run of championship successes last season, and is determined to go one better in 2010. The Finn said he had identified occasions when he was too cautious either with his decision making or his driving in 2009, and would make amends when this year's championship commences in Sweden next weekend.
"On occasions, I wasn't brave enough to make the decisions I needed to with my car setup or to drive more aggressively," Hirvonen said. "I've learned from that and this year there will be no second thoughts. The difference between myself and the title winner last year was a single point. That translates to tiny decisions on the stages but it's those small things that make the difference between winning and coming second, and when you're brave enough to take the chances, you can feel the difference."
His teammate Jari-Matti Latvala has also pledged to play a greater role in Hirvonen's title campaign this season. Latvala lost a lot of points with accidents in 2009, which helped Citroen beat Ford to the manufacturers' title, and also hampered Hirvonen's efforts to close down Loeb's early championship lead. The most galling incident was in Poland, where Latvala's crash on the final superspecial cost him second place and meant the victorious Hirvonen only scored two points more than Loeb rather than the four he had anticipated.
Latvala won in Sweden two years ago but insisted this year his focus would be on supporting Hirvonen.
"I love driving in the snow and I would like to think a top-three result is a realistic target," said Latvala. "But my priority throughout this year will be to finish each rally in a strong points-scoring position to ensure the team scores well on each event and to help Mikko with his challenge for the drivers' title."