Mikko Hirvonen says he needs to turn the tables on Sebastien Loeb quickly if he is to have any hope of staying in contention for this year's World Rally Championship title.
The Ford driver won the season-opener in Sweden, but has seen every rally since fall to either Loeb or his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier. Hirvonen remains second in the standings, and is only 13 points behind Loeb. But the Finn is concerned by the current results trend and anxious to halt Citroen's momentum.
"We are still in the championship fight, that's good, we are not far behind," Hirvonen said after finishing second to Loeb in Argentina last weekend.
"It can't go on like this all the way through, otherwise Sebastien will win the title again, so I have to try and take victories and beat Sebastien in some rallies, that's the only way to take the title. We still have a chance, we are still there."
Hirvonen was off the lead pace in Argentina, but as Loeb, Ogier, Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala all encountered various incidents and delays, he came through to pick up second - just 2.7s behind the victorious Loeb.
"I think in a way I should be happy with second place because my pace was really bad, especially in all the tarmac sections," said Hirvonen. "I don't know exactly what I did wrong, maybe I was pushing too hard and going too much sideways but anyway I should be happy. I'm quite annoyed Sebastien beat me again by two seconds."
His co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen suggested that the run of disappointing performance was causing Hirvonen to over-drive.
"It's always like that when you are doing your best and you just don't get the times, it's kind of a snowball effect," he said. "And you start to over-drive and push and the times seem to get worse. You need to have the relaxed flow when driving and then you get the results. And that was not the case this weekend."
Loeb admitted that he had expected to see his championship lead slashed in Argentina, as he seemed destined for a distant fifth place after picking up a penalty for checking into a time control early on Friday. But he was able to reel in Hirvonen and benefited from Ogier rolling while leading and ultimately falling to third.
"For me it is better to win than to be behind because we were on the way to being behind our two biggest rivals for the championship on this event," said Loeb. "So finally we scored more points than them, we took a little bit more of an advantage on Mikko, he is still not far, 13 points [behind], Seb is 30 [behind] and we are happy for these results."