Telstra Rally Australia 2005
Citroen's Francois Duval has taken his first ever WRC rally win at Telstra Rally Australia, while veteran Colin McRae (Skoda) topped the list of today's retirements.
The unique gravel makes Telstra Rally Australia a challenging event. This
year's rally was even tricker, with many experienced drivers failing to finish. Today's leading retirement was third place holder and rally favourite Colin McRae.
Duval was only fastest on four of the rally's stages and while the young Belgian did benefit from many retirements he was consistently quick enough to hold onto the rally lead he gained after stage 13.
Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera finished the rally second outright, benefiting from the demise of Colin McRae. McRae was holding off Rovanpera by a slim 3.5 seconds when a precautionary clutch change took too long, and the Skoda World Rally Team ran out of time to complete the change and allow the Scotsman to finish the rally.
Privately run Citroen driver Manfred Stohl finished the rally in third outright but it was not a podium without pressure. Australian Chris Atkinson charged through today's stages. Last night, the Queenslander vowed to take fourth place. With McRae's retirement making this goal easy, third place moved into his sights and he was either first or second fastest on all of today's stages. Atkinson finished the rally in fourth place, a result one better than his best achieved last year.
Ford's Toni Gardemeister was poised to take fifth place but on the penultimate stage of the rally, the water pump on the 06-spec Focus broke and his rally was over.
While the grins and champagne took place on the podium there were other rally celebrations taken in private. 2005 World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb
, wore his crown in privacy. The double World Rally Champion did not finish this rally as did the duo fighting for second place in the Championship. With both Petter Solberg and Marcus Gronholm
failing to finish the rally, Petter Solberg gains second place in the Championship for taking three rally wins in the season to Gronholm's two.
Alongside the celebration, there will also be tears of sadness. The event marks the final rally for the Peugeot Sport team as well as Subaru Australia, though both teams are without crews who finished the rally. Telstra Rally Australia will also be the final event for the Citroen Sport team before they come back to the sport in 2007.
Telstra Rally Australia