Having defeated Sebastien Loeb in Sweden, Mikko Hirvonen arrives in Mexico for the second round with the lead of the World Rally Championship. But that means he will be first onto the dusty roads tomorrow and at a significant disadvantage to his rivals. After shakedown today Hirvonen told AUTOSPORT his plan of attack.
Q. Running first on the road, what's a good result for you at the end of tomorrow?
Mikko Hirvonen: I don't know. Hopefully somewhere where I don't have to be first on the road on Saturday. It's going to be tricky and a difficult day. There's not so much loose [gravel] around on Friday, but it is very slippery and we're going to be struggling and cleaning the road for the boys behind. I just hope we don't lose too much.
Q. Starting further back on the road, there's talk that Petter Solberg should be leading on Friday night. If he was 30 seconds up on you would you be surprised?
MH: No. I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Q. Could you get that back at the weekend?
MH: Maybe. But, you know everybody knows what Petter can do [from his start position] tomorrow and it's going to be so easy for them [Citroen] to play tactics and make sure they have a good road position on Saturday. Let's see if there's anything we can do about it.
Q. Have you started to look at a tactical approach yet?
MH: No, not really. We have to start the rally and see how it goes; see where everybody is and then start to make decisions. Around lunchtime tomorrow we'll take a look and think about things for the afternoon loop.
Q. It's warm here, just under 90 degrees. What do you think tire wear is going to be like on the hard Pirellis you're using?
MH: Looking at our notes from previous years, tyre wear has never really been a problem here, but then again when you see the stages on the recce, they look so abrasive I think it's going to be really hard for the tires. The rain has washed some of the gravel away on some sections, leaving it more like compact sand. It has helped a little bit.
Q. What about the security of the stages, we've seen rocks being thrown at the cars in the past on this rally – does that concern you?
MH: Not really. But actually, shakedown was pretty bad – there were people running across the road when we came. That wasn't so nice. But I don't think it will be that bad on the stages. I don't think there will be so many people going up into the mountains.
Q. It must be nice to come here after of the Swedish win...
MH: For sure it was nice to win the first rally of the season, but that was one rally and that's behind us now. This is a completely different style of event and we start again in Mexico. We can take nothing from Sweden that will help me.
Q. With this being the first gravel rally of the season, is there a feeling that this is the first real test against Sebastien Loeb?
MH: I'm going rally by rally and I'm not going to be worried if, for some reason, we're not going so well here. Jordan is next and it's a completely different style of event. We'll see what happens.