Mikko Hirvonen has vowed to go 'flat out' on the final leg of the Rally Portugal after conceding the lead, and a 27 second gap, to Sebastien Loeb.
Hirvonen began day two with an 18 second advantage over the championship leader, but found the gap quickly reduced over the first couple of stages as he battled with the position of running first on the road.
Losing 26 seconds alone on the two runs through Almodovar, Hirvonen could do nothing to prevent his rival from sweeping to a clean sweep of stage wins and eke out a sizeable advantage with five stages remaining.
Bemoaning the abrasive surfaces and excessive tyre wear, Hirvonen admits the deficit will be difficult to overturn, but is hopeful his slightly better position on the road will help him in his quest to go hunt him down.
“A gap of nearly 27sec is a lot but I won't settle for second," he said. "I hope Loeb will struggle with the conditions, as I did today, because I'm not counting on him having a problem. It has been a hard day for the tyres.
“The roads were warm and abrasive, especially this afternoon, and perhaps I braked too aggressively because my front tyres were totally worn at the end of the last stage.
"First on the road wasn't easy. The surface was very loose this morning. Even this afternoon when we repeated the special stages I was still sweeping a little because the cars lower down the order take different lines and so the clear path that developed was dirty again.
“Tomorrow's stages are technical and hopefully there won't be any dust hanging in the air. My only option is to attack and drive flat out.”
Despite losing the lead, BP Ford Abu Dhabi team principal Malcolm Wilson was impressed with Hirvonen's effort on a very difficult day.
"He drove incredibly well considering he was first in the start order and Loeb had the advantage of being third. I hoped the gap would be less than 20sec but he will continue to keep the pressure on tomorrow, especially as he has the benefit of a better position in the start order than Loeb.”