Mikko Hirvonen had mixed feelings at the end of the Pioneer Rally Japan on Sunday as well he took the victory, it wasn't enough to take the battle for the drivers' title to the season finale in Wales.

Hirvonen put in a great performance on the penultimate round in the World Rally Championship and was never headed during the three-days of competition.

Despite taking the ten points though, with Sebastien Loeb third, Mikko can't now catch the Frenchman, as even if he won in GB and Seb failed to score, something that would mean they end the season level on points, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi number one driver would still end up as the vice-champion as he has won fewer events.

Speaking at the finish, the 28-year-old was magnanimous in defeat and has promised that he will be closer in 2009.

"I'm delighted with the win but at the same time disappointed that my hopes of the drivers' title are over. We did all we could but it wasn't enough to prevent S?bastien Loeb winning the title, which he richly deserves, and I congratulate him. His fifth title is quite incredible," said Mikko.

"Hopefully we can try again next year now. Looking at the results, he won ten events and I was relying on my consistency. It did get better in the second half of the season, but we couldn't really be there.

"We're going to be there next year though - and have a very good fight for the Championship."

As for the Rally Japan itself, which was new this season, as the base moved from Obihiro to Sapporo, Hirvonen added that the weather made it extremely challenging.

"It's been one of the most nerve-wracking rallies in a long, long time. The conditions were so difficult," he continued. "Friday was good, we had good times and comfortable speed. But you never know what speed these guys are doing.

"When I backed off, they came close straight away, so I had to go flat-out again. This was a new place, the nature of the stages was new, they were a little bit soft maybe, but they were good.

"I didn't want to take risks in the wet weather today. I was aquaplaning many times and had several lucky escapes."

Hirvonen's concentration now shifts to Wales Rally GB and with Ford still in with a chance of taking the manufacturers' crown - eleven points adrift, the Finn is determined to do all he can there to stop Citroen doing the double.

"Although the drivers' championship is out of reach we will go to the final round with the manufacturers' title still possible and my thoughts will now focus on that," he summed-up.

"Our car works well in the conditions we are likely to see in Wales. We won there last year. There are some new stages. It's going to be really exciting. I hope we can stop Sebastien on something!"



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