Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen had mixed feelings after finishing on the podium on Rally de Espana last weekend and while he was pleased to take third, he was conscious it only came at the expense of team-mate, Dani Sordo, who went out in the penultimate stage.
Hirvonen put in a solid performance at the wheel of his Citroen DS3 WRC car and ran in the top-five throughout, gaining two positions on the final day, first when Qatar World Rally Team man Thierry Neuville lost time with a puncture in SS11 and then moving up into P3 in SS14, when Sordo clipped a rock and had to stop.
“I'm happy to be on the podium but I'm not so happy for Dani because it would have been nice to see him finish the rally and get a podium on his home event.” Hirvonen said. “I'm really sorry for him and Carlos [del Barrio – his co-driver]. They had a great race, both on tarmac and on gravel [and ran at the front throughout].”
“I'm pretty happy with my weekend though,” he continued. “I had a strong event as we managed to stay among the leaders during the tarmac stages. It was better than in France and that was the main thing. I didn't have good pace there and after a rally like that you want to get behind the wheel and go testing and find a better solution.”
Quizzed on why he felt more confident on the asphalt, Mikko replied: “Conditions were more consistent. We changed a few things around with the car [too], but the main thing is how I got the feeling and felt more confident. It was more down to that.”
As for if the feeling was better on the final day when the action shifted to gravel, Hirvonen added: “Of course the dust was a bit of a problem and I didn't feel so confident in the dusty conditions like Seb [Ogier] and I slowed down quite a lot in some places. But I was still confident in catching Jari-Matti [Latvala] and Dani. That didn't happen in the second loop so we took it a bit easy just to get to the finish.”
“[Overall] it's good to be back on the podium. I'll now be trying to finish off the season in style at Wales Rally GB.”
Citroen boss Yves Matton meanwhile was philosophical about Sordo's late exit. He was also quick to congratulate Volkswagen on claming the Manufacturers'.
“This rally served up a plethora of difficulties, and I'd like to highlight the high quality work done by all of the members of our team. As regards performance, reliability and strategy, we have had a very good race. Dani didn't make it to the finish, but he had to push as hard as possible to fight off our rivals, and you can't do that without taking some risks,” Matton remarked.
“Finally I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Volkswagen, who have succeeded Citroen as Manufacturers' World Champions. They have had a great season and deserved to win the title.”