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WRC NEWS 

Hirvonen confident Loeb is beatable

Mikko Hirvonen, Ford, Cyprus Rally 2009Mikko Hirvonen remains confident that Sebastien Loeb can be beaten in the next round of the World Rally Championship in Portugal.

The Ford driver lost touch with Loeb on Friday's asphalt stages in Cyprus, but managed to reduce the gap from 68 seconds to 27s in the gravel-based second half of this weekend's rally.

While kicking himself for his poor day one performance, Hirvonen was buoyed by his times later in the event.

"I think we lost the race on Friday," said Hirvonen. "I was completely lost with my driving. I did not do my homework well enough on how the tyres were working on tarmac.

"Then again, the last two days were a lot better. I was pleased with my speed on the last two days."

He reckons his pace on gravel bodes very well for the rest of the season.

"Once the rally moved onto gravel I was faster than Loeb and that's a big boost as there are now seven consecutive loose surface events to come," said Hirvonen.

"On the wet and muddy roads our pace was pretty much equal, but on the drier sections I was quicker and it's a shame that the heavy rain fell when it did.

"I made some small mistakes with my car set-up because I tried to be too clever. I will do things differently on the next round in Portugal.

"The last time I was in Cyprus I finished more than five minutes behind Loeb so to bring that down to 27s is good progress.

"He will not be one minute ahead after day one in Portugal."

Loeb's string of victories in the first three rounds of the championship mean he leads the standings by eight points over Hirvonen.

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