Subaru's Petter Solberg has won the Propecia Rally New Zealand today [Sunday], despite hitting a rock, and damaging his power steering on the third test of the day [SS20], the Norwegian eventually triumphed by 5.9 seconds.

Solberg's win was the sixth of his WRC career, and the first for the 2004 Impreza - in only its second competitive outing.

Following his victory, the Subaru #1 dedicated his success to Kiwi motorsport legend and seven times Australian Rally Champion, the late Subaru Rally Team Australia driver, Possum Bourne.

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"It's been a incredible rally, the whole week has just been amazing," said 'Hollywood'. "I tell you, if there's one man you don't want behind you on the last day, it's Marcus Gronholm and we were both pushing like hell out there.

"He had trouble, then I had trouble, I'm totally exhausted, but overall it's been really, really good fun. Rallying is a very special sport and to win here is a great feeling. I have so many people to thank in the team at Subaru and Pirelli, but here in New Zealand I'd like to dedicate this win to Possum Bourne."

Gronholm meanwhile had to make do with second, although he could well of won, if he hadn't had made a mistake on the penultimate test, handing Solberg back the advantage. Despite a valiant bid to close the margin in the final test, he ended up 'best of the rest'.

The Finn though was far from downcast, and was pleased with the performance of the 307 WRC, which up until now has suffered from a series of mechanical woes.

"It's been a very good rally for us, but the most important thing about it is that the 307 WRC is definitely heading in the right direction," reflected Gronholm. "There are still some important developments to come, but all the team's hard work on the new car is beginning to pay off. This has been our best rally of the season, and I'd like to thank everybody for all their efforts. We're now just two points behind the World Championship leader and the rest of the season is looking good for us."

Markko Martin was third, and with it he claimed the lead in the 2004 drivers' championship, one point in front of Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, who was again fourth - he finished fourth last year in NZ too. The Estonian won three of the 23 stages, and gave the new Ford Focus RS WRC04, a strong debut.

"A podium result is always a good one so I'm happy after what has been an interesting weekend," he noted. "I think we had a bad Friday, a good Saturday and an average Sunday and at the end of it all we're leading the world championship, so it's been a good weekend's work. Had we known that Petter was going to have a problem this morning then we would have pushed harder, but we didn't want to take risks when we were in a safe third."

Harri Rovanpera came in fifth, and his performance was enough to convince Peugeot that he should take part in all of the remaining WRC gravel rounds in the second 307 WRC. The Finn was understandably delighted...

"I'm very happy with what we have achieved," noted Harri. "I was delighted to take the lead on the opening day and I had a really good feeling with the car all the time. The most important thing for me on this event was always to get a good finish, and my clear objective was to score some points for Peugeot. I'm really looking forward to the future now."

Citroen driver Carlos Sainz was next up in sixth, with Mikko Hirvonen seventh, the Finn was 'happy' to get to the finish and continue to build up experience with the Subaru Impreza.

"I'm very pleased with what I've achieved," commented Hirvonen. "I think I've learned a lot about how to use the car in these conditions, and my driving has come on well. Friday was a little difficult, but since then I made a few small changes and things really improved. Mechanically, the car has been excellent. The competition from the other WRC drivers has been intense, everyone has been pushing as hard as they can and at this stage in my career if I'm able to keep up with the pace and be quicker than them from time to time, then I'm satisfied."

The final championship point went to 'privateer' Daniel Carlsson despite his off on the last stage, which cost him around 6 minutes.

Dean Herridge and Manfred Stohl completed the top ten, the latter also claiming the honours in the Production Car World Rally Championship [PCWRC], 16.3 seconds up on Marcos Ligato, while Alister McRae completed the 'production' podium.

In total 35 cars finished the event - 11 in the PCWRC - out of 58 starters.

The most noticeable retirements were the two Mitsubishi's of Gilles Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg, both failed to make it to the rally start 'proper', going out with electrical gremlins before the start of special stage 2 on Thursday night.

The next event - round five of the FIA 2004 World Rally Championship - starts in just over three weeks time, when crews move to the island of Cyprus. Based around the holiday resort of Limassol, the event presents crews with a series of mechanically demanding, rocky, dry stages. Following a ceremonial start on Thursday 13 May at Limassol Promenade, crews will contest a total of 326.68 competitive kilometres over three days. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp on Sunday 16 May at 1413hrs.