Mikko Hirvonen cannot wait for action to resume on the final leg of Rally New Zealand following a tough day of action that saw the lead slip through his fingers.

Heading into leg two with a comfortable 28secs lead, Hirvonen pushed hard over the first loop of stages but had already dropped 21secs to Sebastien Loeb by the time the cars reached the Service Park.

It wasn't long before Loeb overhauled Hirvonen, but with Citroen and Ford mindful of tactics, the Finn actually ends the day ahead of the championship leader in second place overall.

With team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala heading into the final day's five stages out front, Hirvonen will concentrate on his battle with Loeb instead and while he isn't placed exactly where he would like to be, he is confident of prevailing in another close fight twelve months on from when former team-mate Marcus Gronholm pipped Loeb to victory by the smallest of margins.

"I knew we would lose time but we lost more than I thought," Hirvonen admitted. "There was so much loose gravel on the surface that conditions were really slippery and that's what I expected. This was the hardest day of the rally because each stage was driven only once so there was no chance for me to drive on cleaner roads. When the roads were fast I could match Loeb's pace but in the slow sections I lost time because of the gravel.

"It was a hard day but I came through and the time differences aren't that big. The driver, the car, the pace notes and the rhythm were really good. I could do nothing tactically because I was first on the road.

"I'm in a good position and all I can do now is try to be faster than all of them tomorrow. It will be really close and I can't wait. I have a good road position but Loeb has a better one so it will be difficult. If I could have chosen my start position I would have selected fourth."

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