Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb collected his sixth win of the World Rally Championship season at the Rally Australia, closing the gap on title leader Mikko Hirvonen to a single point.
Loeb edged out the Finn, who finished 12.5seconds back as runner-up – with pole-sitter Dani Sordo, also of Citroen, finishing third.
Loeb’s first win since April was his 53rd in the competition and tees up a thrilling finale to the season with two meetings to go.
The French driver had adopted a risky strategy on day two, opting to hand Ford’s Hirvonen the lead in exchange for a better starting position today, but he was delighted with the execution of his tactics.
“This one is a good one,” said Loeb.
“It was a hard fight – and because it’s been a long time since our last win, it feels especially good. It was really important for the championship to win here. We’ve done it and I’m really happy.
“Spain is next, and we’re one point behind Mikko – the championship is really interesting. It will be an incredible fight to the final, I think.”
Hirvonen, who pushed hard for a fourth consecutive win, was keen to put defeat behind him and focus on a double-header which could see him crowned World Rally champion for the first time.
“It was a really tough weekend. There have been many rallies this season where we’ve been absolutely flat out from start to finish – and this was one of those,” he said.
“But I couldn’t help it – Citroen did really well yesterday, and we didn’t have a chance today. We need to forget this one now and move on.”