Australia : Finish - Summary
The third leg of Telstra Rally Australia saw a new winner on the podium as Perth said goodbye to the FIA World Rally Championship. BP Ford World Rally Team's Mikko Hirovonen held off Subaru World Rally Team's Petter Solberg to take the first
win of his career.
Hirvonen started the day with a 32.3 second lead over Solberg and was able to hold onto that lead through the day's stages. Hirvonen was running behind Solberg on the road and was able to drive to the Norwegian's pace. The young Finn had previously only claimed fourth at this rally, and while he had played runner up several times, the top spot on the podium had been long calling.
OMV Peugeot Norway's Manfred Stohl started the day in third and drove strongly to finish on the podium equalling his Telstra Rally Australia result last year. Kronos Total Citroen's Xevi Pons finished fourth equalling his best WRC finish.
Sadly Finland's Marcus Gronholm
's championship chances ended at Telstra Rally Australia as he was unable to make up the time needed to finish third and maintain his title hopes.
Gronholm rolled his Ford Focus on the first country stage of the rally and faced a mammoth task to make the podium. He fell short, finishing in fifth, allowing Sebestian Loeb to mathematically claim his third straight championship title despite not contesting the rally.
Home favourite and Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson found himself down the order after losing time on Leg One. He was unable to score any points but was cheered on by the Australian crowds as he drove through the stages.
It was an emotional finish for the officials, crew and crowds who lined the riverside podium but the crowning of a new winner in Hirvonen was a fitting end to Perth's WRC era.
Press release Telstra Rally Australia