Despite finishing second on last weekend's Rally Mexico, Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen has admitted that the team has a 'lot of work to do'.
Hirvonen was engaged in a battle with Qatar World Rally Team man Thierry Neuville on Sunday morning with the Finn prevailing after his rival lost time by going off the road and then subsequently backing off to secure the first podium of his career.
“We only really had one mission today and that was to keep our second place, so I'm pleased we managed to do that,” Hirvonen said.
“I'm also pleased to finish on the podium for the first time this season after a difficult start to the year. It's a good result which owes much to my consistency. However, it looks like we have a lot of work to do.”
Indeed Hirvonen reckons Volkswagen's arrival has certainly upped the ante in the new Sebastien Loeb-less era and in the end he finished more 3.5 minutes off event winner, Sebastien Ogier: “It looks like Volkswagen has raised the game and we have to fight hard. We have to work even harder now, [but] I am sure we can improve everything. I am still sliding a little too much and losing time. Without the power with the altitude you lose even more time like this,” he explained.
“I was maybe a bit sleepy in the first stage on Friday [too],” he continued, “but, after that, I was quite pleased.
“I was not able to match Seb [Ogier]'s pace so we have to go back to the drawing table again. We always want to fight for the win. People know I have been in this position many times and we will try again.”
Citroen's team principal Yves Matton echoed Hirvonen's comments and he noted the rally was 'not easy'. He was however, pleased to see the squad extend its lead in the Manufacturers' Championship.
“This rally was a good result for the Manufacturers' World Championship, as we have extended our lead by four points. It wasn't easy, however,” he confirmed. “We worked hard throughout the weekend and I think our efforts will start to bear fruit now from Portugal onwards.”
Hirvonen's team-mate, Dani Sordo meanwhile also struggled, but he still took fourth, despite failing to really adapt to the DS3 WRC on gravel.
“[Although] we have made progress this weekend, I was unable to challenge the other guys because I was struggling to adapt to the car,” said the Spaniard. “We are going to keep working now, especially in the tests that are scheduled ahead of Rally de Portugal.”
Citroen now leads Volkswagen in the Manufacturers' Championship with 87 points to 81. Hirvonen and Sordo lie third and fourth in the Drivers' Championship with 30 and 27 points respectively.
by George East