Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen
won Rally Australia today, although only after team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala
slowed in the penultimate test to allow his fellow countryman through to take the maximum 25 points.
Ford dominated the event 'down under', the tenth round in the 2011 World Rally Championship, and with Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
and Sebastien Ogier
both going out during the opening leg - Loeb rolling in SS4, while Ogier hit a tree in SS6, just two of a number of runners to be caught out in the treacherous conditions on Friday - the 'Blue Oval' had a relatively easy run to its first double success since May 2009 in Italy.
Hirvonen ended the opening leg 7 seconds up on Latvala, but running first on the road on day two he immediately slipped back. Indeed Latvala pulled out a good cushion and went into Sunday with a 22.7 second lead. Latvala then more or less maintained that gap up until the final loop, and in SS25, he eased off to allow Mikko back in front, as the 31-year-old is still in with an outside chance of beating Loeb in the 2011 WRC drivers' championship.
Hirvonen, who has now taken a hat-trick of wins in Australia following his previous successes in 2006 and 2009, now moves back up to second in the standings and cuts the gap to Loeb from 36 points pre-event to 15 ahead of the three final rounds in France, Spain and Wales.
“At the start of the season Jari-Matti and I agreed to help each other, and Jari-Matti showed today what a team player he is,” Hirvonen said. “He had a great opportunity to win this rally but he gave it up to help me in my fight for the championship and I appreciate that. Two years ago I lost the world title by a single point, so every point counts.
“My thanks go to the whole team. We've waited for this for a long time and I know we can continue to fight for wins and titles together. It's been a hard season and we've been under great pressure. We controlled the weekend well as a team and I'm delighted for Ford that we're returning home with a one-two.”
“I know I had the speed to win here and that's good for my confidence, but I wanted to support Mikko,” Latvala added. “It's about attitude and how we handle it. Our challenge for the manufacturers' title suffered from my mistakes and this was my opportunity to pay something back. We have a good spirit inside Ford and you can't win without that.
“I want to be in this team, and we all work well together. I had a passion to win here, but I had to look at the bigger picture and this was the time to support Mikko. Yesterday morning was the key time in the rally. We punched in a series of fastest times, and I knew then that we could both control the result.”
Ford's 1-2 is well timed, as not only does it end Citroen's run of eight successive wins and give the M-Sport-run outfit a timely boost, but it also helps them close the gap somewhat in the manufacturers' – reducing the deficit from 91 points to 62.