Mikko Hirvonen's hopes on clinching a first World Rally title were hit hard when he retired from day one following the Dyfnant stage this morning.
Q. What happened?
Mikko Hirvonen: It was a pretty typical Welsh-type accident. Eight out of 10 times in those situations...OK, for sure I would have spun and lost 10 seconds for that, but it was unlucky that there was some tree stump or stick or something that made a scratch on the radiator and we lost all the water.
Otherwise there's no damage at all on the car – the car's mint. When I spun, I got the car going again and I was back flat-out again. For five or six kilometers, it was fine, no problem. But then there was a problem.
Q. Why did it take so long for the problem to become apparent?
MH: The hole in the radiator was so small, it was taking such a long time for the water to come out of it.
Q. Then the warning lights came on?
MH: Then we hit the problems and, yes, the warning lights came on. When the oil temperature [warning light] came up, I thought about the spin and thought that maybe the front of the grill is full of mud and things like that.
So I stopped and went to have a look, but there was nothing except for this one corner [of the front of the car] which was covered in mud and had this one stick in it.
Q. What did you do?
MH: We finished the stage and then kept stopping and filling it with water to try and get here.
Q. Before that, it was going pretty well this morning...
MH: It was going well. You know, before the start of that last stage, I said to [co-driver Jarmo [Lehtinen]: "This is OK, I don't think we're going too hard and we could even go on a bit more from here." It's so frustrating.
Q. How do you feel?
MH: I've had a tough season. I don't know. Somehow I feel I'm not surprised this happened to me, but I'm just so sorry for the boys and all of the team because even though this was a tough season, we worked so well together. Jari-Matti [Latvala] helped me so much this year just to give us a chance to fight for this title. I'll survive, but like I say it's such a shame for the boys that it's ended like this.
Q. At least you went out fighting...
MH: We were fighting. For me, I lost this in the last two Tarmac rallies [Catalunya and France]. We have been consistent this season and the year hasn't been too bad. We'll be there again.