Mikko Hirvonen has paid homage to Francois Duval after the Belgian obeyed team orders and eased off in the penultimate stage of the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada, something that handed the Finn third place.

Hirvonen struggled early on in Spain and it wasn't until Saturday afternoon that he finally found a good rhythm and felt comfortable in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Focus RS WRC08.

Although he finished the twelfth round in the World Rally Championship on something of a high, by setting the pace in the final three stages, by then he was never going to be able to get P3 on merit.

However Duval purposely slowed in SS17 - the 20.51 kilometre run through Santa Marina, so that the two swapped places, something that gives Mikko an extra point - and he needs every one he can get if he is to stand any chance of stopping Sebastien Loeb from taking the 2008 drivers' title.

"This wasn't how I wanted to take a podium and I really have to thank Francois. He was a true team player and helped me to score an extra point," Mikko reflected.

"Winning the drivers' championship will be very difficult now but it isn't out of the question so I will keep trying.

"I finally found a good rhythm yesterday afternoon and I've learned a lot about driving on this surface this weekend."

Asked what was wrong during the first part of the event, Hirvonen admitted that he was just attacking the stages too much.

"I was pushing way too hard on Friday and Saturday. The car understeered too much. When you go way too quick into the corners this is what happens, I was losing too much time because I was too fast in," he explained. "Once I sorted this out I was able to realise the best way was to go slower in and then it turns in a little easier. I was happy with my driving after I realised that.

"Citroen will be very fast in Corsica though [the next event]. I try not to have any expectations. Like I said, I was excited after the test [before Catalunya], but nothing seemed to work on Friday. I was lost. I hope I can carry it on in Corsica now and fight over there."