A few hours after the race came to an end earlier this month, Mikko Hirvonen was declared the winner of Rally Australia's 2009 edition; however the Ford driver has refused to accept the trophy.
At the conclusion of the rally and having conquered the tenth round of this year's
World Rally Championship, Sebastien Loeb
took his place on the topmost step of the podium and celebrated his victory.
However, following post-race scrutineering, the stewards applied penalties to the three works Citroen cars which reached the finish line: Loeb, Dani Sordo and Sebastien Ogier each received a one-minute sanction when it was discovered that their C4 WRCs were fitted with non-homologated anti-roll bar links.
The Citroen team recognised the fault and accepted the penalties, but put the blame on a low-quality picture appearing in the homologation manual and insisted the mistake had not given a performance advantage to Loeb and his colleagues.
The result of the penalty proved costly to Citroen and Loeb as the Rally Australia victory was granted to Ford driver and championship rival Mikko Hirvonen, giving the Finn a five-point lead in the drivers' standings instead of a one-point advantage. Citroen Racing boss Olivier Quesnel, although quite perplexed and shocked by the sanction, nonetheless proposed to hand over the victory trophy to the Finn. Hirvonen declined the offer, it has appeared.
Speaking recently to Radio Monte Carlo, Quesnel explained: "He refused it because he knows Seb won in Australia."
Hirvonen has been a class act regarding the Rally Australia situation. If he is to become a World Champion this year, he wants the battle to take place on the stages and not in the stewards' offices.