BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen was unable to take the challenge to Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo on the Rallye Deutschland last weekend and had to make do with fourth place.

Hirvonen had finished the opening leg in second, but the Finn slipped back to third on day two, before losing another place in the final stage, when he picked up a puncture after hitting a hole in the road.

That left him behind Stobart Ford's Francois Duval and while Hirvonen tried to catch the Belgian over the final leg, comprising five speed tests and 84.97km of competition, he could not close the gap, and after a big moment in SS16, he opted to settle for the 5 points.

"I was on the limit this [Sunday] morning to try to catch Duval. I had a big escape [in the second test of the day]. I had a corner marked in my notes with a small cut, but I took a big cut. It was a high-speed bend and the car was up on two wheels for a long time. It was close!" he recounted.

"On the third stage I saw I was three seconds down on Duval at the third split section and decided to ease off and settle for fourth. I didn't want to make any mistakes chasing third and risk losing what I had.

"I set some great stage times on Friday and with a bit more consistency I will be able to fight for a top-place on this surface, but I couldn't match the speed of the top two here. But I feel my asphalt driving has improved and it was just unfortunate I lost time with a puncture last night."

Asked what went wrong on Saturday and why he was unable to match the speed he showed on Friday, Hirvonen added that he just didn't feel as comfortable with his Focus.

"I didn't have any rhythm and made many small mistakes. I didn't trust my pace notes first time through the stages so I was too cautious and that's where I lost time. If there was a cut at a corner, I seemed to back off to see how slippery it was," he explained.

"I needed to be braver and I didn't have the confidence to drive flat out like on Friday. No matter how hard I drove, I couldn't match Sordo's times either. The only difference from day 1 was that the stages had different characteristics. They were more like race circuit roads.

"Then on the final stage [on Saturday] I hit a hole and the broken concrete punctured the rear tyre. I drove the final 8 kilometres on the wheel rim. I dropped 45 seconds but there was no way I could have stopped to change it in that time so I made the right decision to continue."


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