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.

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"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.

Chris Atkinson was fifth, to win the Group N category, the Aussie went well throughout the event, and consistently set times in the top ten.

"It is a pretty crazy feeling to come here for the first time and win Group N along with finishing fifth outright," he said. "I could never imagined this could happen especially considering everything that was thrown at me over the weekend."

Fellow countryman Dean Herridge had been on course for sixth until he retired in the penultimate stage, allowing Xavier Pons and Cody Crocker to move up to sixth and seventh respectively.

Toshi Arai came in eighth overall to take the final WRC point, and he also clinched the Production Car WRC win. Overnight leader, Alister McRae was forced to retire in SS22, with gearbox problems. That left Niall McShea to come in second and clinch the PCWRC title, the Brit was 23.4 seconds behind Arai at the finish. Fumio Nutahara completed the Production podium.

"It feels absolutely fantastic," said McShea at the finish, "I knew it was possible when we got here and then it suddenly seemed impossible as Alister was on such good form. Unfortunately for him he had bad luck and we all know how cruel rallying can be. I wanted so much to win from the front and even though we've not had a win this year, we've been on the pace. But it's been the best day of my life so far! The team have been fantastic but I really want to thank John Lloyd who has supported me for the last few years and I hope this title is some sort of payback for him, and for everyone in Ireland who helped me get to this rally."

In total 29 competitors completed the event, 62 having started on Thursday night. Amongst the retirements, as well as Gronholm and Solberg, Markko Martin went out after SS1 with engine problems, while Carlos Sainz didn't start, after crashing in the pre-event recce.

The WRC now takes a break, with next year's championship kicking off again in January, with the Monte Carlo Rally.