Mikko Hirvonen says his World Rally Championship title hopes aren't over, despite seeing Sebastien Loeb claim a fourth win of the season on the Rally Portugal.
With the first third of the season now completed, Hirvonen sits ten points adrift of Loeb in the overall standings after being forced to settle for a fourth podium of the year in second place.
For Hirvonen, the result is a disappointment, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver having led the way after day one following a consistent and trouble-free day.
Indeed, while his road sweeping role dropped him back to second on day two, he was nonetheless confident of catching Loeb on the final leg by virtue of his better road position.
However, while Loeb did indeed battle with the rutted terrain on stages 14 and 15, the dust that lingered in his wake proved to be more of a delay for Hirvonen behind, ultimately preventing him from making a victory challenge.
"It was incredibly dusty this morning," he said. "I started the day thinking a win was possible but the dust hung in the cool air and I realised after the opening stage that in those conditions I had no chance of catching Loeb. I hoped to win here but it wasn't meant to be. I think second place was the maximum I could achieve. Eight points is good for me because many drivers scored zero.”
However, while Hirvonen admits he is becoming frustrated to have Loeb ahead of him each time, he insists he is still in the championship fight.
"It's frustrating to see Loeb on top again but I'm not giving up on the championship title just yet – we are only a third of the way through the season. I go to every event hoping to win and without him I would do that! The car was excellent here and I really enjoyed the rally, although it was tough yesterday when I had to clean the road at the front."