WRC

Rally Australia: Final summary

Final Leg News Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed their maiden world rally victory in Australia today as the BP-Ford World Rally Team increased its lead in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finns won Rally Australia in their...

Final Leg News

Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed their maiden world rally victory in Australia today as the BP-Ford World Rally Team increased its lead in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finns won Rally Australia in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car by 37.1sec. Gronholm's fifth place finish means that the absent Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) is crowned world champion for the third time (subject to the official publication of results by the FIA). Loeb broke his right arm in a mountain bike crash last month and has missed the last two rallies. Gronholm needed a podium finish to keep the title race active. Petter Solberg (Subaru) claimed his best result since Rally Argentina in April by finishing second ahead of Manfred Stohl (Peugeot). Xevi Pons (Citroen) and Gronholm were the only other WRC cars in the top 10.

Kronos Total Citroen

It has been a fantastic weekend in Australia for the Kronos Total Citroen team and its driver line-up of young Spaniards. The rally ended with the happy news that 14,000 kilometres away from Perth, their team leaders Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had become FIA World Rally Champions for the third consecutive time.

Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "Today was quite close to being stressful. I was paying a lot of attention to avoiding all the stones. Many drivers made mistakes on this rally and I did not want to become one of them. "

Dani Sordo/Marc Marti: "Obviously I hoped for a better result, " admitted the Spaniard afterwards. "But this delicate balancing act, on a surface with no grip at all, has allowed me to learn a lot - which was the whole point of this year. And some of the time, my stage times and the gaps to the stage winners were encouraging."

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has done it again. For the third time this season they finished on the podium in a run to the FIA World Rally Championship. After Manfred Stohl in Mexico and Henning Solberg in Turkey it was once again the 34-year-old Austrian's turn to earn a sensational success for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team at the "Telstra Rally Australia". In fact, an even more joyful one since the rally marked the 100th assignment by Bozian Racing, the French tuning wizards.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I like this rally because of the high speed and the many fast turns. On the other hand the rally is completely unpredictable - which was proven by the many retirements. In any case, I am overjoyed that I could repeat last year's third place. Moreover, it was high time for another podium place after having finished fourth three times already this year. And I like one third place much better than three fourth ones "

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: Retired

BP-Ford

Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed their maiden world rally victory in Australia today as the BP-Ford World Rally Team increased its lead in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finns won Rally Australia in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car by 37.1sec. Team-mates Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen finished fifth in another Focus RS as BP-Ford widened its lead in the manufacturers' series to 16 points. This was the team's sixth victory of the season and, in terms of rally wins, this is now Ford's most successful season ever in world rallying.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I'm pleased that after losing so much time on Friday I was able to score points and help the team move further ahead in the manufacturers' championship. The team and the car are looking really strong and we are in a great position. I'm really happy for Mikko. This win will really boost his confidence and I'm sure he will be confident of beating me now! I'm sad we are not coming back to Perth again because it's a fantastic rally, a great place and the people are so friendly. I will miss it."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "This is fantastic! I had so much pressure, not only to win but also to bring the car home for manufacturers' points. Petter pushed me hard but I didn't want him to get too close and it felt good to keep him back. I wasn't too nervous and I concentrated on controlling my speed and rhythm. Now the plan is to win the manufacturers' title."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson and Luis Perez Companc both demonstrated fantastic car control, under the most difficult conditions, to bring their Ford Focus RS WRC 06s home at the end of the 19th and final Rally Australia to be based in Perth. The drivers faced six stages (two loops of three) to the east of Perth through a final loop run in overcast conditions. The first stage was the immensely technical and twisty Atkins test. At just 4.42 kilometres, it's not the longest in the event, but it is certainly among the hardest. Wilson's job was made even harder when a minor car problem made downshifting from second to first difficult.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "Running first on the road wasn't quite as bad as it was yesterday. There's been a fair bit of moisture around this morning which means the gravel was bound together, giving us a little bit more grip. The second run of the stages was okay, the road had cleaned quite a bit. We had one stall at the start of a stage. On the whole, the rally has been a little bit frustrating. Most of the frustration came on the first day. I made a small mistake but paid a big price for it."

Luis Perez Companc/Jose-Maria Volta: "I had no real problems this morning. The first stage was very technical and slow - I didn't enjoy that one very much, it was a bit of a nightmare. Then I went off the road twice on the long one. One of those times I was fully off the road, the car was right away and into the grass. Luckily there weren't any big rocks or stones in the undergrowth, so the Focus wasn't damaged. After that, I really enjoyed the third stage. It was nice and fast and flowing, much more the kind of road that I like. This afternoon, I had a launch control problem which stalled the car at the start of the long stage - other than that it's been perfect. Now I'm really looking forward to getting to New Zealand for more time in this great car!"

Subaru

Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg finished Rally Australia in second place today after an excellent performance on the red gravel roads around Perth. Solberg's Impreza WRC2006 ran perfectly over the final 103 kilometres and enabled him to win three of the day's stages -and a total of six throughout the rally. After a small mistake on Leg one cost Chris Atkinson the rally lead and 25-minutes of penalty time, his focus switched to learning the stages and testing for the next WRC round in New Zealand. Nevertheless, another consistent and reliable run from Atkinson moved him up seven more places today and he finished inside the top ten. Overall the weekend was an encouraging one for Subaru, with both factory Imprezas showing an increased level of competitiveness after a relatively disappointing season so far.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I am very, very happy to get second place. It's been a really tough season and the team has been working so hard for this, day and night. We're still going to keep pushing on the car, as there's still more to do, but today I am really pleased for all the team and mechanics as it's a big boost for everyone."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's not the result we wanted, but we had the pace we wanted and we haven't had that speed for a long time. To be leading the rally on Friday was good and sure, we made a small mistake, but it's encouraging to have that speed. I don't think we would have held onto the lead but we would have been on the podium. So while the result is disappointing, we're encouraged and keep on learning about the car."

Next Event
The championship stays in Australasia for the 15th and penultimate round next month. Hamilton hosts the gravel Rally New Zealand on 16 - 19 November.

-credit: www.rallye-newsletter.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Jarmo Lehtinen , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Ilka Minor , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport