Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen
has vowed he will be faster on the next event, after struggling to match the pace of his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb
and the Ford's of Jari-Matti Latvala
and Petter Solberg
Hirvonen began the sixth round in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship promisingly and was in the fight until Friday afternoon, when he haemorrhaged time in the final test, losing more than 20 seconds when, unsighted by the dust thrown up by Mads Ostberg, he picked up a puncture. After that though, he just slipped further and further back and was never really a contender again.
While his solid run did still net him second at the finish, after Latvala and Solberg both had problems, the Finn was not at all happy, not surprisingly really, given how well he went in Argentina last month, when only team orders stopped him fighting with Loeb for the victory.
“It was definitely not the team plan [that I measure my pace this weekend],” Hirvonen said post-event. “I wanted to stay in the fight we were in on Friday morning, but then the stages dried out, we got more grip and I struggled a little bit.
“Then I lost more and more time - and then you've lost the last push you need. In some sections you start to hesitate, which you never do when, like these guys, you are in the fight. Then I said: 'Okay, let's avoid the mistakes and get to the finish'. This is not so bad for the team.
“I have to think about things [now] - and why they didn't go so well [here]. Some things were not exactly similar to Argentina and maybe this makes the difference. When I dropped down on Friday, when we had the dust and puncture we were 30s behind.
“I should have pushed harder the next day - it was not so good a drive for me on Saturday.”
Asked if he could be more specific, Hirvonen declined to comment: “No, I won't [say more]. I know [what the issue was], but I'm not going to talk about it. On the next rally, I will be faster,” he pledged.
Hirvonen's co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen meanwhile is convinced they will be back up there on the next event in New Zealand: “You always need to find a positive - and we found out a lot about what went wrong and we will be a lot stronger in New Zealand,” he added.
“NZ is one of the most enjoyable rallies. You don't need to worry about tyre wear or breaking the car, the roads are so smooth - it's going to be a good weekend for everybody.”