Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel said he had to 'take his hat off' to Mikko Hirvonen after the Ford man pushed Sebastien Loeb all the way to the final test in the battle for victory on Rally Norway.

Loeb had suggested ahead of the event that Ford could hold the upper hand with its driver line-up of Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala and it was Hirvonen who ultimately provided the strongest challenge as the pair swapped places through leg one before Hirvonen conceded his advantage to take a better road position for leg two.

From that point on however, Loeb was able to maintain his lead but Hirvonen ensured the battle went right to the wire before the Frenchman held on to take victory by less than ten seconds.

It was a result that pleased team chief Quesnel, but he was quick to praise Hirvonen for his part in a fascinating battle.

"We began the weekend as outsiders but the rally unfolded much the same way as it did in Finland in 2008," he said. "Hats off to Mikko Hirvonen. He put up a great fight, and I think both drivers were at the same level here in Norway. It was very close.

"By winning their 20th different World Championship round, Sebastien and Daniel have provided further evidence of their extraordinary versatility. Dani [Sordo] also had a good run. We held him back a bit today because it was vital for us to make sure we scored points if ever Sebastien hit a problem. Once again, he has made a key contribution to Citro?n's overall result."

Hirvonen's performance also drew praise from Ford boss Malcolm Wilson, who saw his drivers finish second and third to secure strong points for Ford in the manufacturers' title battle.

"This was a great team performance," he said. "Mikko gave it everything, and for the result to be as close as it was, is an indication of how hard both were trying."

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