x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hirvonen happy that title chance is 'in my hands'

Mikko Hirvonen stands eight points adrift of series leader Sebastien Loeb as the Citroen driver won the Rally Spain to the Abu Dhabi Ford driver's second-place finish.

Mikko Hirvonen needs to score nine more points than Sebastien Loeb at next month's final round of the World Rally Championship in Britain if he is to claim his first drivers' title.

The Abu Dhabi Ford driver finished second behind Loeb in Rally Spain, which finished yesterday, leaving him with a tall order to prevent Loeb from claiming his eighth successive title in Wales.

Loeb, the Citroen driver, will take an eight-point advantage to Britain after gaining a bonus point by being third quickest on the final stage in Spain, and he will win the title if the two are tied after the race thanks to his five wins to Hirvonen's two.

"It will be an exciting finale in Britain in conditions that I like," Hirvonen said. "I must win the rally but the destiny of the title is pretty much in my own hands, and that's a good feeling."

The Finn will need to improve his pace in Britain after requiring help for the third successive race from teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.

Latvala, who had fought with Loeb for victory during the first two days of the rally, deliberately earned a time penalty before the final stage to drop him behind Hirvonen to third place to ensure his compatriot took the maximum points available. Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, driving the third Abu Dhabi Ford car, struggled on the tarmac stages of the rally and he finished in 14th place. The Emirati will miss the last round due to commitments at the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.