Eight-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has praised Mikko Hirvonen's input into Citroen's pre-Rally Sweden testing, with the Frenchman feeling a new confidence aboard his DS3 WRC.
While Loeb has won two winter rallies in his career, he admits that Finn Hirvonen's experience of the snow and ice conditions on next week's have helped him prepare for the second round of the World Rally Championship.
Both Citroen drivers tested in Sweden this week and Hirvonen will continue testing on Rally Finnskog in Norway on Saturday.
Loeb said: "Mikko has joined the team with his own experience and he has helped improve the setup of the DS3 WRC on ice. I tried his setup and I immediately felt confident. We have made a lot of progress compared with 2011."
Loeb won Rally Norway in 2009 and Rally Sweden in 2004. He added that the conditions have usually been his downfall in the years he hasn't been able to challenge.
"It's perhaps not a surface on which I excel, but I love competing here. It's actually one of the season's most enjoyable rallies," said Loeb. "If you look at my record here in previous rallies, it has often been the conditions that have made things more difficult for me.
"When I went off the road in 2008, it wasn't really a winter rally as the above-zero temperatures had turned the ice into mud. Last year, I finished sixth but lost any hope of winning after clearing the road of freshly fallen snow on the first day and then picking up a puncture... When the stages have roads covered with a good layer of sheer ice, I think I'm just as fast as my rivals."
Rally Sweden starts on Thursday, Feb. 9, and finishes back in Karlstad on Sunday, Feb. 12.