The Finn, who drives a Citroen DS3 WRC, was one of three front-runners to hit trouble in the 47km Kineta-Pissia test, and returned to the service before SS2 in a lowly 21st position.
“Something is broken in the steering rack or something from the steering [wheel]," he explained.
“It was going really well but then 7km from the finish I started to hear some noise and feel that something was loose in the steering. Then one kilometre after that I was turning in a corner and it just went loose. I turned the steering wheel three times and nothing happened - the car just went straight ahead.
“After that there were a couple of hairpin corners where I had to stop, turn the wheel, then go a bit forward, stop and turn the wheel, again and again, just to get round the corner.”
Hirvonen’s Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team is changing the steering system in service before SS2.