Citroen has regained the top spot in the Manufacturer's Championship and is now joint leader with rival Peugeot at 110 points, following Rally Australia, where Sebastien Loeb drove his Citroen Xsara WRC to second place, Colin McRae was fourth and Carlos Sainz fifth.

Loeb, who had led the rally until the closing kilometres and who dominated the action in a close-fought duel with Subaru's Petter Solberg, was pipped to the Australian winning post by the Norwegian, who set the fastest time in the closing two stages.

However, Loeb's second place is a first-class achievement for the young Frenchman, in only his second outing down under, and has netted him eight points, consolidating his fourth place in the driver's championship.

"Right now I am a little bit disappointed with the second place, but really this result is fantastic for me," said the Frenchman, "I came here looking to finish somewhere in the points, maybe sixth or seventh - so this is good, but it would have been nice to win - however after our tyre choices [for SS23 and SS24], that was very difficult."

Team-mates Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz meanwhile both finished their rally on a high, moving up one place each on the overall leaderboard. Despite a slight off in Special Stage 22, McRae finished second in the next stage, set the fastest time in the day's last event, [with Sainz hot on his heels in second], and earned five points for Citroen. His Spanish team-mate was awarded four points for his efforts.

McRae commented: "First of all it's important to say that Sebastien has done a great rally on only his second outing here in Australia. On my side, I am happy with the way the rally ended up - we worked our way up in the leaderboard and even enjoyed a small fight with Carlos. This is a very good result for the team."

Rally Australia has not just tested the mettle of the Citroen Xsara WRC drivers but has proved, once again, the reliability and speed of their cars.

Team boss, Guy Frequelin concluded: "We haven't got the right to be disappointed [despite losing the win at the death]. I wouldn't dare to hope for such a result, which is fully deserved [before the start]. It didn't come from our competitor's weakness but from the fantastic job the team has done and also from our drivers' talent.

"We knew a good result here would help us for the end of the season. And that's what we did. We must keep our concentration for the coming rallies, but I'm sure we will work even harder with the extra motivation we have gained from our performance here."

 

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