Mikko Hirvonen has already admitted that if Citroen's Sebastien Loeb maintains his current pace on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse then he won't have a chance to claim the victory.

Hirvonen finished the opening day on Friday 32.3 seconds behind Loeb and having been comprehensively outpaced by the Frenchman in all six tests, the Finn is not at all optimistic.

Indeed he is more focused on keeping second and staying ahead of Francois Duval, who is just 1.7 seconds back in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC08. Whether Duval is a real threat though is unlikely, and even if the Belgian does get in front on Saturday, Mikko is likely to again benefit from team orders, as he is still in with a chance of taking the drivers' title.

"I'm feeling much better at the end of the first day here than I did in Spain last week, but the gap to S?bastien Loeb is 32sec, which is still too big for my liking," said Mikko. "He was faster than me on every stage and if he maintains that pace, then I can't beat him.

"I tried to stay in touch, but there was nothing I could do. I can't push any harder without taking massive risks. At the moment I'm driving safely and at a comfortable speed but if I push too hard then the car starts to understeer.

"I can't relax however because Fran?ois is close behind and I need to concentrate on the fight with him. He is a good driver on asphalt, so if I can stay ahead of him tomorrow I would be happy. Day two will be interesting because the roads are rough and bumpy and mistakes could be punished with a puncture or worse."

Duval, who lost out this morning as he was eighth in the start order, meanwhile is determined to try and move up into second, although whether he will get to keep it is another question.

"I expected more from today. I wanted to be second tonight, but third isn't too bad. This is a difficult rally and I didn't feel that the grip was 100 per cent perfect throughout the day," said Duval, who stiffened the spring settings on his car's suspension at the lunchtime service.

"It was especially difficult this morning because the roads were dirty and that's why I lost time in the first stage. However, conditions were the same for everyone this afternoon. The car understeered a little but maybe that's normal when the roads are dirty. I will need to push hard tomorrow. The gap to Mikko isn't so big so second place is possible."

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