Hirvonen lost out on victory to the eight-time title winner in a dramatic showdown on Neste Oil Rally Finland last week, finishing 6.1s adrift of his Citroen team-mate following a thrilling three-day battle for glory.
It was Frenchman Loeb’s sixth win of 2012 and his third in Finland and means Hirvonen’s wait for his maiden victory with Citroen - whom he joined in the winter following a lengthy stay at rival team Ford - continues.
“I knew we were going to have a big fight with Seb but of course I was thinking on this rally I’m going to handle it and take the win,” said Hirvonen. “But I couldn’t do it because he was just a bit faster. I’m obviously disappointed because I tried everything.”
Asked what he needs to do to beat Loeb, Hirvonen explained: “His strongest point again was his consistency. In quite a few stages we managed to be faster than him but he doesn’t have any stage where he loses two or three seconds. Okay maybe he has one or two stages but I had more of those. Against him in Finland you just can’t have those, he’s just so consistent.”
Hirvonen, who clocked a new record time through the closing Ouninpohja stage at an average speed of 129.54kph, made a point of thanking Citroen team management for allowing him to battle Loeb throughout the event rather than imposing team orders.
“I’d like to thank Citroen for letting us race each other freely and I’m proud to be involved in securing this fifth one-two finish [of the season] for the team,” he added.