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2009 Rally Australia : WRC Round 10 of 12 : 4th - 6th September

In this issue:

1. Final Unofficial Leaderboard
2. Final News
4. Final Team by Team News
5. Championship Points
6. Next Event

1. Final Unofficial Leaderboard

* Adjusted after penalties to Loeb, Sordo, Ogier.

1. Mikko Hirvonen, Ford 2h:53m:06.5s
2. Sebastien Loeb, Citroen +47.5 sec.
3. Dani Sordo, Citroen +1:04.6
4. Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford +1:52.! 0
5. Sebastien Ogier, Citroen +2:23.3
6. Matthew Wilson, Ford +5:38.8s
7. Henning Solberg, Ford +7:30.3s
8. Federico Villagra, Ford +7:51.9s
9. Hayden Paddon, Mitsubishi +15:48.6s
10. Martin Prokop, Mitsubishi +15:57.2s
2. Final News

Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen has extended his lead in the World Rally Championship after a stewards’ decision demoted Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb to second place, almost six hours after the official finish of Repco Rally Australia today.

Loeb had been declared the winner, but tonight the stewards imposed a one-minute penalty on the time of the 1# Citroen after finding it had front suspension parts that did not comply with the homologation records for the car.

They imposed the same penalty on the Citroen C4 WRCs of teammate Dani Sordo and Citroen Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier after the team verified they also had the same parts, described as front anti-roll bar links that were longer and required additional notches.

The Citroen team did not appeal the decision.

The decision had the effect of reversing the original 1-2 finishing positions and, instead of Hirvonen leading Loeb by one point in the Drivers’ standing, he now has a five-point break with just two rounds remaining in the 2009 FIA WRC.

Sordo remains in third, but Og! ier surrendered fourth place to Hirvonen’s BP Ford Abu Dhabi teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.

The pre-penalty result had taken the Citroën C4 WRC driver to within a single point of the provisional lead in the 2009 Drivers' World Championship standings. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti's superb third place has helped Citroën extend its advantage at the top of the Manufacturers' points table.

Ford's Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen originally finished second in Rally Australia today to preserve their lead in the FIA World Rally Championship with two rounds remaining. The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo secured the runner-up spot by 4.6sec in a Focus RS World Rally Car after an exciting showdown through the final speed test to lead the drivers' table by one point. Team-mates and long-time rally leaders Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were fifth in another Focus RS WRC.

This 10th round of the 12-event series ! was based on the east coast in northern New South Wales for the first time after 19 years in Western Australia. The action was based in the countryside south-west of the rally base in Kingscliff, on a mix of narrow and twisty gravel tracks which ventured into the rainforest, contrasting with blisteringly fast, wide and smooth roads. Drivers tackled 33 special stages covering 322.06km, mostly in dry and hot conditions but with a few showers during the opening day.

4. Team by Team News

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

* Comments prior to penalty.

As championship leader, Hirvonen was first in the start order on the opening leg, unwillingly sweeping the loose gravel from the surface to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. Despite the disadvantage, he minimised the time loss to lie fifth. He climbed the order during the second day, which amazingly ended with the top three drivers covered by just one tenth of a second. However, the 29-year-old Finn was forced to undertake the role of road sweeper again today. He could not prevent Sébastien Loeb edging away to a 12.5sec victory, but his battle with Dani Sordo was thrilling. The! y traded places five times in 10 stages close to Kyogle, before Hirvonen entered the final 22.41km speed test with a 2.1sec advantage, which he protected to secure second.

#3 : Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "It was a tough weekend, but one hell of a fight for victory," said Hirvonen. "I drove flat out from start to finish and the key factor in the final result was when I had to run first in the start order today. I felt trapped by that and if Loeb had been in that position rather than me, then the outcome could have been different. In the damp sections I matched his pace, but in the dry I couldn't hold him. "I wanted to outscore him here but the championship is still wide open with just two rounds remaining in Spain and Britain. Before going to Spain I will take some training on asphalt and then test out there to be properly prepared," added Hirvonen.

#4 : Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila:
Latvala enjoyed! the benefit of favourable road conditions to lead for virtually all the opening leg, before he had to sweep the gravel yesterday. He bravely held off his challengers for much of the day before finally ceding the lead. He then slipped to fourth after damaging his car's right rear tyre when he slid into a bank and the impact pushed the tyre from the rim. In an identical incident this morning, 24-year-old Latvala dropped a further 50sec and the Finn had to settle for fifth. "I made a fantastic start on Friday but the rally turned round on me on Saturday afternoon and today," he admitted. "Two mistakes that caused the tyre to come off the rim on each occasion cost me dearly, but who knows what may have happened without those errors? It didn't work out in the end and I'm disappointed, but also happy that my speed was good enough to lead for half the rally. It was more difficult to drive first through the stages then I thought it would be. There seemed to be more loose gravel than I remembered from the recce."

Citroen Total World Rally Team

* Comments prior to penalty.

With just one tenth of a second covering Dani Sordo, Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen going into the final day of the 2009 Rally Australia, Sunday's action was always going to be exceptionally close. The last leg was also the longest of the weekend in terms of competitive action, with a programme of two loops of five stages in the Kyogle region, split by a 15-minute remote service break.

#1 : Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: Sébastien Loeb eased back ahead thanks to his fastest time on the day's opening test (SS26). Mikko Hirvonen responded with the best performance on SS28, but that didn't prevent the four-time World Champion from gradually extending his l! ead throughout the morning. By the time crews checked into the short service halt in Kyogle, the cushion was up to 11 seconds: "The gap isn't big enough yet for me to be able to lift. Despite the fact that he is running first on the road, Mikko is still going extremely quickly, and I don't think he has any intention of throwing in the towel. We went well this morning and my C4 WRC feels nicely balanced on these stages. The situation is looking promising for us, but I don't intend to take my eye off the ball."

#2 : Daniel Sordo/Marc Marti: A fastest time for Dani Sordo on SS27 provided further evidence of the Spaniard's speed in Australia, and he completed the first loop fighting for second spot, just 3.8 seconds adrift of Hirvonen: "I dropped a little time by pushing too hard, which led to a tendency for my car to oversteer. Our aim is to try to catch Mikko, but clawing back four seconds this afternoon won't be easy. He is going very well and I mustn't f! orget the prospect of a good Manufacturers' points haul for Citroën." The afternoon's run saw Sébastien Loeb maintain the same sort of pace to bag a further two fastest times, and it was only on the final stage – which was broadcast live on TV – that he was truly able to control from in front. The Frenchman was clearly delighted with his performance at the finish: "Winning is always nice, but today's victory has a special taste to it because it's our first since last April! This rally turned out to be long and tough. The variety of the stages and the speed of our rivals kept us on our toes from start to finish. This result is particularly important in terms of the championship. It has brought us back to within just one point of Mikko and we will be looking to regain the lead in Spain."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford World Rally Team!

Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg overcame final day dramas to complete another double-points finish for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team at Repco Rally Australia, round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship. Both drivers took their best ever finishes in Australia finishing in sixth and seventh place to maintain the team’s lead over their Citroen Junior rivals in the Manufacturer Championship.

#6 : Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: “I think we have made the most of a difficult weekend and come away with more points for the Stobart team and a stronger position in the drivers’ championship. It’s been a hard rally, especially on the first pass when there was lots of gravel, and unfortunately we got caught out by the slippery conditions on the second day. But we battled on and still managed to set some good times even though we spent most of the event working on improving the set-up.”

#5 : Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin: “We’ve had a positive rally but it was a bit of a shame that Henning had some problems this morning as it would have been great to continue the battle right to the end of the rally. It was a real mix of stages on this new event, with some really fast and others slow and twisty, and together with the short stages it meant that concentration was tough. I’m pleased to have got to the end of this new event and there were difficult conditions but great experience for us on the slippery, loose gravel roads on Friday.”

5. Championship Points

Hirvonen 78
Loeb 73
Sordo 50
Latvala 35
H. Solberg 29
P. Solberg 25
Wilson 23
Ogier 20
Villagra 15
Rautenbach 8

1. Citroen Total 133pts
2. BP Ford Abu Dhabi 120pts
3. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford 69pts
4. Citroen Junior 38pts
5. Munchi's Ford 21pts
6. Next Event

The series returns to Europe next month for the penultimate round, and the second and final all-asphalt encounter of the season. Rally de España is based in Salou on 1 - 4 October.