Mikko Hirvonen has pledged to come back 'stronger' and 'better' next season, after missing out on the 2009 WRC drivers' title on the Rally of Great Britain last weekend, the final round in this year's World Rally Championship.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi number one went into the event in Wales ahead of Sebastien Loeb in the drivers' championship but, in the end he was unable to beat the Frenchman and finished with just one point less.

Despite that though, the 29-year-old was still generally pleased with his season, especially as things looked to be a bit of a foregone conclusion back in April and following the Rally Argentina, where Loeb won his fifth event in succession.

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"For sure I am disappointed. We got all the way here and at the start of the rally it was all fair and we had the same chance as S?bastien but we just couldn't do it in the end," Hirvonen reflected.

"It's been a great season though; very consistent all the way through and I haven't made any mistakes, except those few stages on Saturday morning - and I think that's where I lost it.

"Maybe in the end I wasn't having the same rhythm and attack through the rally. The first splits I had on Saturday I just couldn't believe how much time I was losing and you start to think that maybe there is something wrong with the car.

"I couldn't believe I was losing so much with my driving. I thought there was something but the boys checked the car and it was fine. It must be that those few stages just weren't for me, and that's where I lost the fight.

"However, I never thought the title battle would go right to the end. OK, at the start of the season I thought we were experienced enough to fight for it, but it didn't start well. S?bastien was winning all the rallies and then after Argentina I gave up.

"But then things went wrong for him and he made small mistakes and had problems so it gave us a chance to come back for the fight. So that was good and for sure it was a really exciting end for the season. But once again he was just a bit faster and took his sixth title.

"Overall I'm frustrated to lose by so little, but happy I was able to fight for the title with a six-time world champion until one stage from the end of the season. My challenge now is to beat Loeb before he retires. I've learned a lot this year and I will come back stronger and better next year."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson meanwhile was full of praise for Hirvonen's efforts: "He deserves enormous credit for fighting his way back into the championship battle with four consecutive wins when the title looked all but over in the summer," Wilson continued. "He missed out by just one point against possibly the best driver the sport has ever seen and he will leave here stronger for that.

"His consistency has been remarkable and he was the only top driver not to make a mistake this season. The way he has matured and stepped up his pace this season makes me look forward to 2010."

Wilson's comments were echoed by Ford of Europe motorsport boss Gerard Quinn: "We're disappointed for Mikko and Jarmo [Lehtinen - his co-driver], but equally we're delighted at the progress they have made this season and the way they have taken the challenge to Loeb. Mikko will learn from this weekend and we are already really looking forward to renewing rivalries again on the opening round of the 2010 season in Sweden in February," Quinn summed-up.