Mikko Hirvonen won Rally Australia after Jari-Matti Latvala slowed on the penultimate stage to hand his Ford teammate the victory and allow him to close on championship leader Sebastien Loeb.
Hirvonen took the lead on Friday when both Loeb and Citroen teammate Sebastien Ogier crashed out, but Latvala moved ahead on Saturday morning when Hirvonen had to run first on the road.
Latvala entered the final day with a 22.7 second lead over his fellow Finn, but slowed on the penultimate stage to hand Hirvonen his third consecutive Rally Australia win. It was also Ford's first win since Hirvonen's victory in Sweden at the start of the season.
Petter Solberg finished a quiet third in his privateer Citroen, while Matthew Wilson was fourth – a result that equalled his career best from Rally Japan in 2007. Khalid Al Qassimi bettered his best ever WRC result with fifth, benefiting from a high level of attrition amongst the WRC entries.
Hayden Paddon took his Subaru to sixth overall, taking his fourth PWRC class win from four starts this year, enough to wrap up the title in the absence of nearest rival Martin Semerad. Fellow Production runners Michal Kosciuszko, Oleksandr Saliuk and Benito Guerra all picked up their first outright WRC points by finishing in positions seven, eight and nine respectively.
Loeb and Ogier both restarted under superally rules on Saturday morning. Ogier had brought himself into contention for eighth place but was then ordered by his team to drop out of the points to allow Loeb to finish tenth. Loeb also limited the damage to his lead by winning the power stage and taking the three bonus points, ahead of Latvala and Solberg.
Evgeny Novikov had been holding tenth ahead of the Citroen duo after himself restarting but then had what he described as his biggest ever crash on Sunday morning.
Hirvonen has moved to within 15 points of Loeb with three rallies remaining. Loeb's home round of Rallye de France takes place on 29 September to 2 October.
Top ten results:
|1.||3||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||3:35:59.0|
|2.||4||Jari-Matti Latvala||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+14.7|
|3.||11||Petter Solberg||PSWRT||Citroen DS3 WRC||+44.8|
|4.||5||Matthew Wilson||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+8:45.2|
|5.||10||Khalid Al Qassimi||Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+12:33.3|
|6.||38||Hayden Paddon||Symtech||Subaru Impreza WRX STi||+17:29.3|
|7.||22||Michal Kosciuszko||Lotos Dynamic||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+19:01.3|
|8.||30||Oleksandr Saliuk||Mentos Ascania||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX||+21:08.5|
|9.||39||Benito Guerra||Ralliart Italia||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+22:48.9|
|10.||1||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+30:02.9|
Drivers' standings after 10 of 13 rounds:
1. Sebastien Loeb, 196pts
2. Mikko Hirvonen, 181
3. Sebastien Ogier, 167
4. Jari-Matti Latvala, 116
5. Petter Solberg, 110