Mikko Hirvonen has seen his slim hopes of securing a maiden World Rally Championship title ended by a retirement on Rally Deutschland.
The Ford driver, who was seeking to bounce back from a disappointing retirement while leading his home event in Finland, was firmly in contention for a podium finish after the opening day of the asphalt event only for transmission problems to force him to retire during Saturday's second leg.
While the 30-year-old returned to action under Superally for the final day, a problem with the gearbox on his Focus saw him retire from the event on Sunday morning with his bid to secure the crown coming to an end as a result.
Hirvonen's third failure to score this season means he now lies fifth in the championship standings having been overhauled by Dani Sordo during the German weekend, while the gap to leader Sebastien Loeb is now too great for the Finn to fight for the title.
"I braked for a tight junction after a long straight and tried to shift down, but the gearbox stuck in third," Hirvonen said of his retirement on Sunday. "I managed to select first before it jammed in third again, which wasn't good on a stage with so many tight junctions. I found first and drove the remaining 9km to the finish but stopped on the liaison section to the service park. It wasn't linked to our retirement yesterday [Saturday].
"I didn't have the confidence that I had here two years ago, especially in high speed corners. That started to improve yesterday afternoon but then I had the problem. I feel we're closer to the pace that we need to be at, but it's difficult to make that final step."