BP Ford Abu Dhabi number one driver Mikko Hirvonen
is refusing to be downbeat, despite losing further ground this weekend in Portugal in the fight for the 2010 WRC drivers' title.
Hirvonen began the sixth round in the 2010 World Rally Championship perfectly, by seizing the lead on Thursday night in the short 2.03 km Estádio Algarve super special. However he was unable to maintain that position when the event started proper and found himself down in fourth at the end of the first leg, 46.9 seconds off the eventual winner, Sebastien Ogier.
The 29-year-old then conceded another position during day two and while he tried to make up ground on Sunday, he was unable to do so and and it looked like he would finish in fifth.
The repeat-run through the Faro soccer stadium super special produced a surprise though, when Petter Solberg
made a mistake and lost 10-15 seconds. That allowed Hirvonen through and he gladly took the extra four points for fourth.
Mikko now heads into the WRC's summer break third in the standings with 76 points - 12 less than Ogier and 50 less than Sebastien Loeb
with seven of the 13 rounds still to go.
"What an amazing end to the rally," Hirvonen said. "After all the drama on the final stage during the last round in New Zealand, I can't believe that it has happened again here. I couldn't have driven any faster this morning.
"I gave everything to try to catch the two guys ahead but my rear tyres lost their grip and midway through the stage I called off the attack. I knew I couldn't reach them. It was a difficult rally. I didn't have the pace this weekend to challenge for the win and the rally was tough on tyres.
"I tried a different approach this weekend. I was less aggressive, letting my driving flow rather than pushing too much. I thought my driving was good and the car handled well, but the times weren't fast enough. The result wasn't good from a championship point of view but we've done six rallies and there are seven more to come so there's still everything to fight for."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson meanwhile was 'disappointed' with the weekend, as was Gerard Quinn, Ford of Europe's motorsport chief.
Indeed not only did Hirvonen lose ground in the drivers' championship, but Ford also slipped back in the manufacturers', as Jari-Matti Latvala
didn't finish in the sister car after hitting a tree on day two.
"We can't escape the fact that we didn't enjoy as good a weekend as we had hoped. We now have six weeks before the season restarts and we'll use that time to work as hard as we can to try to regain the form that has already brought the team two victories this season," Quinn concluded.