Hirvonen wins Rally Australia

Coffs Harbour: Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen won Rally Australia on Sunday, moving ahead of teammate Jari-Matti Latvala on the second-last stage when Latvala slowed to give Hirvonen a first-place finish and maximum series points.

The win under apparent team orders moved Hirvonen to within 15 points of series leader Sebastian Loeb with three races to go.

Hirvonen finished the four-day, 26-stage, 369-kilometer (228-mile) rally in a time of 3 hours, 35 minutes, 59 seconds. Latvala was second in 3:36.13.7 and Petter Solberg of Norway third in a time of 3:36.43.

Matthew Wilson of Britain finished fourth in 3:44.44.

The drivers will compete next at the Rally de France at Alsace from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, the 11th of 13 rounds.

It was a third Rally Australia victory for Hirvonen, who also won in 2006 and 2009 on different courses.

His only previous triumph this season was in the opening round in Sweden.

"This is a fantastic feeling and a very important result for the team and for my championship chances," Hirvonen said.

Latvala was philosophical about surrendering his opportunity to win.

"Of course, it would have been great to have won the rally but it was a great result for the team."

Loeb and second-place Citroen teammate Sebastian Ogier lost valuable time on Friday after each crashed while leading.

"I can`t be happy with this rally," Loeb said. "It has not been good for me, my teammate or my team."

His sentiments were shared by Ogier, who was more compliant on Sunday than in the previous round in Germany when he won after ignoring team orders to let Loeb take first place.

"I have team orders and I respect it," Ogier said.

Bureau Report

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