03 Aug 08
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson says that despite the disappointment of not winning Rally Finland, Mikko Hirvonen will benefit from the close battle with Sebastien Loeb that raged all weekend.
Hirvonen’s second place was his seventh podium in nine rallies this year and keeps him in the lead in the FIA World Rally Championship driver standings, one point ahead of Loeb. Ford remains on top in the manufacturers' series, three points ahead of Citroen.
"This wasn't the result we were looking for but having lost Jari-Matti so early, it made it more difficult for Mikko because he had to think about both championships,” said Wilson. “He delivered an incredible performance and learned a lot having to battle with Loeb for three days, which will make him stronger. They were 0.5sec/km quicker than the rest of the field and I think Mikko drove better than last year which is a big achievement."
"It was a fantastic rally and an amazing fight and it's unfortunate I didn't win in front of my home fans,” reflected Hirvonen. “I pushed right to the end but it wasn't enough. I lost the time by not being brave enough in the narrow sections. I've also learned that I could have made my notes quicker. The speed was crazy. I'm pleased to still lead the championship but one point isn't much. It'll be difficult but we must now fight for the win on every round."
Hirvonen’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala finished 39th after a first day accident ended his chances of victory. Latvala returned to the action on Saturday under SupeRally rules with a 45 minute penalty. He concentrated on rebuilding his speed and confidence and went on to claim four stage wins.
"The rally didn't go as I expected unfortunately,” said Latvala. “And I didn't achieve what I wanted, which was a podium. I feel quite empty. It ended for me on Friday morning and that was all due to an error I made on the recce when I didn't mark a rock in my pace notes. At least I got my confidence, rhythm and speed back and drove the new stages which is good for the future. It was difficult to be motivated but the best medicine after an accident is to get back behind the wheel. I know the speed is there so I hope that next year I'll have the chance to fight for a win here."