Mikko Hirvonen has admitted that he hoped to be able to do battle with Sebastien Loeb for longer as he prepares to partner the nine-time champion for the final time before he ends his full-time WRC career.

Although Loeb will be in action alongside Hirvonen on some events next year, the Frenchman will no longer fight for the title after electing not to contest the full season, with his focus moving on to other activities - including a possible switch to the World Touring Car Championship with Citroen for 2014.

With Loeb's departure, Hirvonen will go into next season as one of the favourites for the championship but the Finn admitted it was sad that he wouldn't be battling his team-mate for the crown.

"To be honest, I had hoped that the scrap with Sebastien would last longer," he said ahead of this weekend's season finale and on the back of his first win for the team in Sardinia last time out. "I need this kind of contest, where there's just seconds between the leaders, to keep improving. When I have a big lead and just need to hold position, I can do that. I have been in that type of situation on enough occasions in the past to stay calm and focussed.

"I think that there will be more close contests in 2013, and there will undoubtedly be a new World Champion at the end of the year. This first win with Citroen helps me to visualise what I hope next season will look like."



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