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Hirvonen claims first victory of new era

Citroen number one and seven-time WRC champion, Sebastien Loeb had a rather poor weekend and had to settle for sixth. He lost out having to run first in the order on the opening day, acting as the snow plough for those behind, and two punctures compounded his problems.

“It has been a very difficult rally,” Loeb reflected. “I lost so much time on the first day. We have pushed throughout the rally though and I have learned a lot about the car for the rest of the season. The changes to the setup that we made before Saturday were very good.”

Per-Gunnar Andersson, who was running in a Fiesta RS WRC paid for by members of his fan club, eventually fought his way back up to seventh. The Swede showed good pace and won four stages, but an error in SS2 and a puncture in SS4 put him out of the reckoning.

“It great to finally finish this rally. What else can I say - an interesting weekend. We try to put it behind us and continue,” said P-G, who has a deal to compete in the IRC this year with Proton.

Kimi Raikkonen began his second season in the WRC with a solid eighth place in his Ice 1 Racing-run Citroen DS3 WRC. The 'ice-man' opted for a cautious start, but increased his pace on day two and three. His best times were one fourth and two fifths. “We spun [a few times] and had some small difficulties but overall it was good. At the end Kimi did a great rally,” said co-driver Kaj Lindstrom.

Britain's Matthew Wilson and Khalid Al-Qassimi took ninth and tenth, the former losing considerable time on the opening loop on Friday with powersteering issues. Patrik Sandell was just outside the top ten in his Skoda Fabia S2000 followed by Martin Prokop, Denis Kuipers and Ken Block. The latter two incidentally took the final few manufacturers' points.

In the Production Car World Rally Championship category, Martin Semerad was the comfortable victor, more than 5 minutes up on Yuriy Protasov. Semerad went into the lead on Saturday, after Anders Grondal retired in SS12 with engine problems.

The only other notable retiree was Henning Solberg. He had been running fifth in his M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC, but crashed out in the first test on day two. He was unable to rejoin under the SupeRally today as the off damaged the rollcage.

The 2011 FIA World Rally Championship now heads to Mexico in a few weeks time, with round two running from March 3-6.


STOP PRESS:

To see the result following today's WRC Rally Sweden - CLICK HERE.

To view the latest championship standings - CLICK HERE.


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Related Pictures

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Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

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