Three questions for… Mikko Hirvonen

You finished in second position at the Acropolis Rally, but you make no secret of your preference for quicker surfaces… like the one on this next rally!
“Yes, Rally New Zealand is just great.

You finished in second position at the Acropolis Rally, but you make no secret of your preference for quicker surfaces… like the one on this next rally!
“Yes, Rally New Zealand is just great. Obviously, my favourite event is still Rally Finland, but this really is one of my favourites. The stages are run on fast-flowing roads and they allow you – or rather force you – to adopt a good pace right every inch of the way. It’s great fun to drive like that and I can’t wait to get there. This year, there are over 400 kilometres of stages to run, which makes it all the more exciting!”

It has often been said that the roads in New Zealand are quite specific, with series of banked corners that form a sort of propeller. Is it really special from a driving point of view?
“Most rallies have their specific features and Rally New Zealand is no exception; the gravel roads are indeed characterised by their pronounced camber. You have to be very precise during reconnaissance and note down carefully on which side of the road you need to position the car for braking. If you are on the wrong side, you can end up tilting the car and you’re certain to go off the road! You have to ‘master’ the contours of the roads, so that you can negotiate the bends more quickly. When you manage to do that, it’s exhilarating.”

In recent years, this rally has seen some very close finishes. Do you think there is an objective reason for that?
“I think it’s related to the nature of the roads. There is no rough gravel on the course and so it’s very unusual for the leading contenders to experience major problems at the start of the race. New Zealand is all about pure speed; we drive flat out from start to finish. The time differences can therefore be very minimal between those who have found the right pace. The race can come down to the last few stages. When there are several of us ‘busting a gut’ to try and win the rally, anything can happen!”

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