Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm has won the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rally Australia, which finished in Perth this afternoon.

Gronholm and his navigator Timo Rautiainen started today's four stages comfortably clear of their nearest rivals and they maintained their advantage through the remaining kilometres in the Sotico forest complex to secure their fifth victory of the season.

Team-mates Harri Rovanpera and Voitto Silander fought past Petter Solberg today to ensure a one-two for Peugeot, the eighth of the season.

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The Sotico stages, well known for the spectacular jumps and watersplash, were viewed by thousands of spectators. They had plenty of incidents to watch; Carlos Sainz rolled his Ford Focus but continued, his team-mate Francois Duval crashed out and the sole remaining Hyundai of Juha Kankkunen succumbed to engine failure in the final stage.

The Peugeot 206 WRCs of Gronholm and Rovanpera have been reliable during the final leg. Gronholm's only slight concern occurred when his information screen reported a slipping clutch, even though the unit itself was working perfectly.

Gronholm cruised through today's four stages to secure his third Rally Australia win in succession, and claim his fifth victory of this season. The Finn and navigator Timo Rautiainen had been rarely troubled during the event, which they had led since the third stage on Friday.

''This has been one of the easiest wins for me this year but at the same time, I had to keep concentration for two days when I had a very strong lead,'' commented Gronholm. ''Today was just about watching the speed of the guys behind and making sure they didn't take too much time out of me. I'm very happy, of course, and now I'm sure I can take this motivation and confidence into the last round in Britain.''

Team-mate Harri Rovanpera meanwhile was today's charger, setting fastest times on both of this morning's opening pair of stages to ease past Petter Solberg and into second overall. The former Swedish Rally winner then increased his advantage over the Norwegian to secure a one-two for the Peugeot team.

''I did a full, full, full attack this morning,'' said Rovanpera. ''We took some risks and it paid off, because we got ahead of Petter. Then we had to be more careful because some of the stages today had big rocks. It was enough, though, because we pulled some more time on him before the end. I'm quite happy - the first day didn't go so well for me but things improved and we have set some very good times yesterday and today.''

The third 206 driven by Richard Burns succumbed to clutch and gearbox problems in the penultimate forest stage on Friday and he was forced to retire.

Burns noted: ''My clutch started to slip quite badly from the very start of the stage and I tried to keep going for as long as I could. But in the end, I just lost all drive and we couldn't go any further. I'm obviously disappointed.''

At Subaru the Impreza WRC2002 of Petter Solberg was reliable, although the Norwegian felt that he'd gone for too hard a tyre compound on this morning's opening pair of stages. Makinen's car suffered a puncture in the first stage, and then the Finn reported a noise from the front brake caliper in the following test.

Solberg reckoned his tyre choice was too hard for this morning's opening pair of stages and that their high-speed nature suited the Peugeot of his chief rival, Rovanpera. Sure enough, the Norwegian lost enough time to cede his overnight second position to the Finn, and once the 206 driver pulled further clear in the penultimate stage, Solberg elected to preserve his car and settle for third.

''I'm reasonably happy with third because I knew last night that the gap to Harri was going to be very hard to defend on today's stages,'' noted Solberg. ''It's like I've said all along on this rally - once we get into fifth- and sixth-gear stuff, I haven't been able to stay with the Peugeots. Today's stages were very high-speed in places and Harri just had too much for me. But it's good again to be the best non-Peugeot and I think we have been closer to them here.''

His team-mate Makinen claimed fourth overall despite suffering a puncture and a noise in the front brake calipers this morning. The four-times world champion's was then excluded at the finish because his car had been judged underweight at the scrutineers' checks after SS23. The Subaru team has elected not to appeal.

Subaru World Rally Team Principal David Lapworth commented: ''The judgement has come as a big disappointment to Tommi and the team. However, in the interests of the sport, we have decided to accept the judgement and will not appeal the Stewards' decision.''

At Ford the Focus RS WRC02s of Markko Martin, Carlos Sainz and Francois Duval ran without any problems, although Sainz damaged a turbo pipe on his car when he rolled in the day's second stage.

Sainz's hopes of getting back on terms with Rovanpera disappeared this morning as the Finn set two fastest times on the opening pair of stages. On the second of those tests, Sainz rolled at a slow corner, damaging his car's turbo pipe and losing power for much of the stage. The resulting time loss dropped him to fifth by the finish, but he gained fourth when Makinen was excluded.

Sainz said: ''The roll was about 600 metres after the start of the stage, at a very slow first corner. It was only in first gear but the car went into the ruts and then it rolled right over. The actual roll only cost a few seconds because the car ended up back on its wheels but we'd damaged the turbo pipe so we had no power for the rest of the stage. That's what cost us the bulk of the time. In the end, I don't think we could have had a much better result here. I drove hard all event.''

Martin and Duval had been told to finish at all costs, but they started today separated by just tenths of seconds and they swapped positions on both of the first two stages. On the third, however, Duval slid off and hit a tree. The Belgian was removed from the vehicle and taken to a hospital in Perth, suffering from bruising to his left arm and leg. Despite a heavy landing on the same test, Martin completed the remaining stage to secure fifth overall.

The fourth Focus of Colin McRae went out on Saturday after SS14. The Scot, who was competing with former co-driver Derek Ringer landed heavily after a fast jump. Although he finished the test, the landing had inflicted terminal damage on the Focus's radiator and it could proceed no further.

''I knew the moment that we landed that we'd done something to the sumpguard,'' said McRae, ''but we still made it to the end of the stage. It was only then that we realised the radiator was losing a lot of water and was quite badly damaged. It's disappointing, because we were actually going better and I think we could have gained one or two positions.''

Over at Skoda Toni Gardemeister's Octavia WRC ran well. His team-mate Kenneth Eriksson enjoyed a relatively clean run, although he did lose his car's intercom on today's second stage when he drank some water on a long straight and accidentally dropped some of it onto the headphone socket.

Skoda badly wanted Gardemeister to score a point, which will promote the team to equal fourth in the Manufacturers' standings and Makinen's exclusion allowed the young Finn to achieve that goal. He remained consistent as he brought his Octavia home in sixth.

''I've quite pleased by how the event has gone - we've found a set-up for the car that's quite easy to drive and on the high-speed sections, I was very comfortable,'' noted Gardemeister. ''Our only problem all rally has been a small thing with the tracking on the opening day but the team fixed it quickly. This is certainly not my favourite way of collecting a point, although of course I am happy with it.''

His team-mate Eriksson again had to run first on the road on stages widely regarded as the worst in the entire world championship for loose gravel cleaning. The veteran Swede overshot a junction on the slippery surface, but he still finished in eighth. Both Skoda drivers reported near-misses with kangaroos during today's action, meanwhile.

''It's been a hard rally,'' said Eriksson. ''After we had so many small problems on the opening day and then had to run first on the road yesterday and today. It's actually quite hard to motivate yourself in those situations because you know that no matter how hard you push, the road is going to be better and quicker for all the guys behind you.''

Jani Paasonen's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo WRC was reliable today. Paasonen admitted that he'd found this event surprisingly difficult, but he maintained his steady approach to today's stages. He was rewarded with ninth overall at the finish.

Paasonen said: ''This rally has definitely been a hard one, because the roads are really slippery and we've been running near the front of the starting order yesterday and today. Of course I was angry at rolling but we've still managed to finish and I've learnt a lot about how the roads change here. Yesterday I followed Juha Kankkunen's lines but today he recommended that I didn't use Kenneth Eriksson's because he cuts corners quite a lot and there are many rocks here in some places.''

Paasonen's team-mate Francois Delecour crashed out heavily on day one. His co-driver Daniel Grataloup was airlifted to hospital and he has since been transferred from intensive care to a general ward. Although he has quite a few injuries, surgery will not be needed.

At Hyundai Juha Kankkunen's hopes of finishing the event in the sole remaining Accent WRC3 looked set to be realised, but in the very last stage the car's engine (which had been off-song since a misfire on the opening day) lost oil pressure and he had to retire.

Kankkunen started today's four stages with only an outside chance of a top-10 finish in the only remaining Accent. Thanks to the retirement of Francois Duval, the veteran Finn looked odds-on to achieve this but on the last stage, his car's engine lost oil pressure and he was unable to continue.

Kankkunen said: ''The engine hadn't been running right all morning. If you think about it, when we had the misfire it ran for some time with no fuel - and thus no lubrication - going into two of the cylinders, so the pistons were rattling round in there. I felt it this morning on the faster sections, because the car just wasn't pulling at the high revs any more. It's disappointing but we certainly tried our best, even when the road conditions worked against us.''

The other two Hyundai's went out on day one, Freddy Loix rolling his Accent while Armin Schwarz was forced to retire when his engine stopped at the end of SS7.

Of the other entries Citroen Sport driver Sebastien Loeb declared himself happier with his Xsara WRC's set-up today and he inched into seventh overall by the finish.

Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh, meanwhile, secured the FIA Production Car World Championship by claiming third in the category this afternoon. His closest rival Kristian Sohlberg had retired yesterday but Proton driver Singh wasn't able to relax until the finish, since Peruvian Ramon Ferreyros stood an outside chance of denying him the crown. He finished 17 seconds behind Singh, however. Japanese driver Toshihiro Arai took maximum points in the category, ahead of Alex Fiorio. The overall Group N class was won by Manfred Stohl, who brought his Mitsubishi home over a minute and a half clear of Ed Ordyinski.

Rally statistics - Leg three:

Starters: 46 crews (18 Group A and 28 Group N) started this morning.

Retirements: Duval (B), Kankkunen (FIN), and 5 other drivers.

Today - Sunday 3 November: Leg 3 started from Perth at 07h00 and covered 353.79km, including 105.69km on four special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS21 Bannister Central (5.63kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3m 22.4
2. Sainz (E) Ford 3m 25.4
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 3m 26.2

Leaders after SS21:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 43m 08.4
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 2h 43m 58.0
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 2h 44m 17.3

SS22 Bannister South (28.65kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 16m 07.3
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 16m 18.6
3. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 16m 28.5

Leaders after SS22:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 59m 27.0
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3h 00m 24.6
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 00m 30.3

SS23 Bannister West (34.57kms):
1. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 17m 09.2
2. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 17m 13.8
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 17m 25.5

Leaders after SS23:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 16m 40.8
2. Solberg (N) Subaru 3h 17m 33.8
3. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 3h 17m 55.8

SS24 Bannister North (36.84kms):
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 19m 15.7
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot 19m 20.0
3. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 19m 24.7

Leaderboard in Perth after SS24:
1. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 35m 56.5
2. Rovanpera (FIN) Peugeot +57.3
3. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 28.7
4. Sainz (E) Ford +3m 09.0
5. Martin (EE) Ford +6m 21.5
6. Gardemeister (FIN) Skoda +7m 11.6
7. Loeb (F) Citroen +9m 06.1
8. Eriksson (S) Skoda +12m 46.4
9. Paasonen (FIN) Mitsubishi +13m 25.5
10. Stohl (A) Mitsubishi +19m 20.7

Production Car WRC leaders after SS24:
1. Arai (J) Subaru 3h 58m 09.5
2. Fiorio (I) Mitsubishi +1m 43.2
3. Singh (MAL) Proton +1m 56.9
4. Ferreyros (PE) Mitsubishi +2m 14.4
5. Rowe (GB) Mitsubishi +3m 35.6
6. Kollevold (N) Mitsubishi +13m 00.5

Final rally statistics:
Event: The rally covered 1571.98km, including 388.64km on 24 special stages (including three run twice and one used three times). All stages were on gravel roads closed to other traffic.

Starters: 69 crews (42 Group A and 39 Group N) started the rally.

Finishers: 38 crews (14 Group A and 24 Group N) finished the rally.

Stage winners:
Gronholm (SS3-4-5-6-7-8-16-17-18-19-24)
Rovanpera (SS9-11-12-13-15-21-22-23)
Solberg (SS1-10-20)
Loix (SS2)
C. McRae (SS13)
Makinen (SS14)
Sainz (SS15)

Rally leaders:
SS1-SS2 Solberg
SS3-24 Gronholm

FIA World Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (provisional standings after 13 of 14 rounds): Gronholm (FIN) 77, Burns (GB) 34, C. McRae (GB) 33, Sainz (E) 32, Panizzi (F) 31, Rovanpera (FIN) 30, Solberg (N) 27, Makinen (FIN) 19, Loeb (F) 18, Martin (EE) 14, Bugalski (F) 7, Radstrom (S) 4, Gardemeister (FIN) 3, A. McRae (GB) 2, Thiry (B) 2, Kankkunen (FIN) 2, Eriksson (S) 1, Puras (E) 1, Loix (B) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (provisional standings after 13 of 14 rounds): Peugeot 163, Ford 94, Subaru 54, Skoda 9, Mitsubishi 9, Hyundai 9.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 5 of 6 rounds, this event not counting): Dallavilla (I) 28, Sola (E) 27, Caldani (I) 13, Tuohino (FIN) 12, Duval (B) 12, Basso (I) 10, Galli (I) 5, Schelle (D) 5, Feghali (RL) 4, Rowe (GB) 4, Carlsson (S) 3, Baldacci (I) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Foss (N) 1, Katajamaki (FIN) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 8 of 8 rounds): Singh (MAL) 32, Sohlberg (FIN) 26, Ferreyros (PE) 23, Fiorio (I) 16, Arai (J) 22, Rowe (GB) 13, Trelles (ROU) 12, Iliev (BG) 9, Baldini (I) 4, Manfrinato (I) 4, Kollevold (N) 4, Ligato (RA) 2, De Dominicis (I) 3, Harrach (A) 2, Marrini (2).

Next event - 14 - 17 November 2002: Network Q Rally Great Britain, Cardiff, Great Britain.