Mikko Hirvonen admitted he was disappointed not to secure victory on Rally Norway after a three-day long battled with Sebastien Loeb in the second round of the WRC season.
Hirvonen led the event on the opening day before losing the lead to Loeb on the final stage and then found himself battling to try and catch the Frenchman for the remaining two days.
Despite his best efforts, Hirvonen saw Loeb extend his lead to 15 seconds ahead of the final leg but the Finn bounced back to win four of the first five stages on leg three and cut the lead down to just 7.7 seconds.
Unfortunately for Hirvonen, Loeb was able to win the final stage to secure victory and extend his lead in the points standings to six points, with Hirvonen now up to second place – although he was disappointed not to have taken his first win of the year.
"I'm disappointed to be second,” he said. “I lost the rally yesterday [Saturday] because I couldn't respond to Loeb's speed then. It wasn't the result I wanted but I'm glad that we went down fighting and it was a hugely enjoyable battle.
“I gave up a little bit, maybe 5km into the final stage. I couldn't go any faster and the car was moving. I had no grip. I saw from the splits, I was two seconds behind. I had to back off and settle for second.”
Despite his disappointment at only finishing second, Hirvonen was quick to praise the event as one of the best he had competed in.
"This was the best winter rally I've competed on – and I have driven many," he said. "It was fantastic to drive on the edge in snow and ice for three days, and to be involved in such a great battle. To be split by less than 10sec after more than 360km of competition says it all.
“The line between making a small mistake and being perfect at those speeds is so tiny and I couldn't have done any more. I took so many risks but we both had to do that because the competition was so close.”