Having finished five minutes off the lead last time he visited Cyprus, Mikko Hirvonen says he has plenty of positives to take from this year's event, despite admitting he lost his chance of victory on the first day because he 'didn't drive well enough'.

With the mixed surface rally adding something of an unknown element into proceedings, Hirvonen concedes that any hope of overhauling Sebastien Loeb were scuppered on the opening day when he could not match him on the tarmac surface.

Going on to win three stages over day's two and three - compared to Loeb's one -, Hirvonen steadily reeled in the gap to the Frenchman, finishing less than 30secs behind having been more than a minute adrift on day one.

It means, with seven loose surface rallies coming up, Hirvonen is feeling confident that his performance in the latter stages of the event will bode well for him and his attempts to close the current eight point gap.

''I lost my chance of victory on Friday morning because I didn't drive well enough,'' the BP Abu Dhabi Ford driver admitted. ''Once the rally moved onto gravel I was faster than Loeb and that's a big boost as there are now seven consecutive loose surface events to come.

"On the wet and muddy roads our pace was pretty much equal, but on the drier sections I was quicker and it's a shame that the heavy rain fell when it did.

''I made some small mistakes with my car set-up because I tried to be too clever," he added. I will do things differently on the next round in Portugal. The last time I was in Cyprus I finished more than five minutes behind Loeb so to bring that down to 27sec is good progress!"

Despite losing Jari-Matti Latvala mid-way through the second leg, team boss Malcolm Wilson was happy with Ford's performance, while he also took the time to congratulate Loeb on his record-breaking 50th WRC win achievement.

''I would like to congratulate S?bastien Loeb on the achievement of taking his 50th WRC win - but I've had assurances from Mikko and Jari-Matti that he will not reach the next landmark for a while! Mikko again did a fantastic job and while Jari-Matti's problem yesterday was disappointing, he came back to set competitive times and score points for the team.''

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