Reigning champion Sebastien Loeb returned to his winning ways after finishing day three of Rally Australia 12.5 seconds ahead of championship leader Mikko Hirvonen.
Loeb’s team-mate Dani Sordo had a nail biting finish after almost catching Hirvonen, but ultimately finishing 4.6 seconds behind.
With Loeb’s 53rd rally victory of his career and sixth of the season, he closes up the championship points to trail Hivonen by just one point going in to the last two rallies of 2009.
“This one is a good one,” said Loeb “It was a hard fight, and because it’s been a long time since our last win it feels especially good. It was really important for the championship to win here. We’ve done it and I’m really happy. Spain is next and we’re one point behind Mikko – the championship is really interesting. It will be an incredible fight to the final I think.”
Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen struggled throughout the weekend with the road conditions but despite being helped by the damp conditions, couldn’t keep up with the pace of Loeb. “It was a really tough weekend; there have been many rallies this season where we’ve been absolutely flat out from start to finish and this was one of those,” he said.
“But I couldn’t help it – Citroen did really well yesterday and we didn’t have a chance today. Maybe it would have been a different story if I hadn’t been first on the road, but there are so many ifs… We need to forget this one now and move on.”
Despite Dani Sordo putting in an excellent drive over the weekend, he was shaking his head as he crossed the finish line after losing out to Hirvonen.“I pushed really, really hard to try and keep Mikko behind but it was impossible,” he said. “Okay, I lost second place but it's okay; I’m still happy with what we’ve got.” he said.
Citroen rounded of the weekend with a fourth place from the Junior Team driver Sebastien Ogier, who produced a string of fast times only to become undone by an off-road excursion on Saturday. “Apart from one mistake yesterday it’s been a very good weekend for us,” said Ogier. “We were able to fight with all the best drivers in the World Rally Championship and the car worked well, so I’m very happy for everybody in the team!”
Top 10 finishers
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h52m54.0s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 12.5s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 17.1s 4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m35.8s 5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2m04.5s 6. Matthew Wilson Ford + 5m38.8s 7. Henning Solberg Ford + 7m30.3s 8. Federico Villagra Ford + 7m51.9s 9. Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi + 15m48.6s 10. Martin Prokop Mitsubishi + 15m57.2s
Top 10 Championship positions after Rally Australia:
1. M.Hirvonen 76 Points 2. S.Loeb 75 Points 3 D.Sordo 50 Points 4. J-M.Latvala 35 Points 5. H.Solberg 29 Points 6. P.Solberg 25 Points 7. M.Wilson 23 Points 8. S.Ogier 21 Points 9. F.Villagra 15 Points 10. C.Ratenbach 8 Points