Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
has won the Telstra Rally Australia today [Sunday], the final round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship, to take his sixth win of the season, to add to those notched up in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Cyprus, Turkey, Germany and France.
Loeb's win means he has equalled the record set by Didier Auriol, for the most WRC wins in one season [set in 1992].
The Frenchman, who clinched the 2004 title in Corsica, took the honours by nearly 2 minutes.
"Carlos [Sainz] said that he wanted to be greeted in Madrid with the news that we had won. Well once again Citroen
gave us a perfect car which meant we were able to make that happen - thanks to everyone," said Loeb.
Harri Rovanpera was second for Peugeot, to grab only his second podium result of the year. The Finn was the only 307 WRC to make it to the finish.
"It's been a very good rally for us," he reflected. "The main thing is that the car has been very reliable, which has allowed us to push with confidence and fight at the front. We've had no problems at all on this rally, apart from a couple of small mistakes which cost us a little bit of time."
Team-mate Marcus Gronholm went out yesterday in SS10 in the sister 307, after leading from the off. Gronholm, also crashed today in SS24, after re-starting under the SupeRally system, rolling 5 kilometres in. He was airlifted to hospital for 'precautionary checks', but is thought to be ok.
Ford's Francois Duval took the final spot on the podium, with Mikko Hirvonen
the last of the surviving works' drivers in fourth, to equal his career-best performance.
"It has been a very long and difficult rally but it's great to finish the year with a podium place," said Duval. "It was an unexpected result for us because we don't have much experience here. We set out with the aim of not taking any risks and that paid off. Once we reached third yesterday morning, there were big gaps both in front and behind us so there was nothing to gain by attacking."
"I was aiming to finish the season with a podium result," added Hirvonen, "but although I just missed out on that, I'm still quite happy with fourth. I haven't had the best road position for this event and that certainly made things difficult, but it also helped me learn how best to control the car on this very loose surface."
Hirvonen's team-mate, Petter Solberg, went out on day one, the Norwegian though continued under the SupeRally regulations Saturday and today, his performance Sunday earning him four more stage wins to add his tally.