Mikko Hirvonen admitted it was good to be back in the mix for victory in the World Rally Championship despite dropping down to sixth on the final day in Japan.

The Ford man has endured a difficult season, which meant he headed to Japan having already been knocked out of contention for the 2010 title.

However, Hirvonen was in contention throughout the Japanese event and went into the final day running second to Petter Solberg. Unfortunately, for the Finn, an issue with the hydraulic pump on his Focus WRC meant he was forced to complete much of the final day without a fully-functioning semi-automatic gearbox or centre differential.

It meant he was powerless to continue his fight for victory and dropped down to sixth at the finish.

"I drove eight stages with the gearchange and centre differential not working and that was difficult, especially on the twisty sections," he said after the final day. "When the car slowed in the twisty sections and under braking I couldn't keep the revs high enough to use the paddle shift gearchange and had to use the manual version. When I could keep the engine above 5000rpm, then the paddle shift was fine.

"But after a series of difficult rallies, it was good to be back on the pace for the first two days and fighting for the lead. The battle for victory was so close on Friday and Saturday that it was flat out all the way and it's great to be part of such a big fight."


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