Hirvonen wins Portuguese Rally
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen won the Rally of Portugal on Sunday to seize the world championship lead from Citroen teammate Sebastien Loeb.
The victory, after all his main works team rivals had crashed out in tough conditions on the Algarve roads, was Hirvonen's first for the French manufacturer since moving from Ford at the end of last year.
Norway's Mads Ostberg finished second, one minute 51.8 seconds behind, in a privately-entered Ford while Russian Evgeny Novikov, also driving a Ford, took his first world rally championship podium in third place.
Hirvonen (75 points) now leads Loeb, the eight-time champion who retired on the first day in Portugal, by nine points overall after four of 13 rounds.
"I'm relieved more than anything because this has been a very difficult rally," Hirvonen told the world rally championship website (www.wrc.com).
"The conditions were very tough so it's great to come through with no problems and win for Citroen," added the Finn who led since Friday but failed to win a single stage.
Ostberg and 21-year-old Novikov endured last-day dramas, the former's Ford running on three cylinders while the Russian's Fiesta suffered a throttle problem.
Novikov's co-driver Denis Giraudet became, at 56, the oldest co-driver to stand on the world rally championship podium.
Norwegian Petter Solberg finished fourth, 22 seconds off a podium place, after sliding into a ditch while leading on Friday and returning with a 10-minute time penalty on Saturday.
Organisers cancelled half of Friday's stages after heavy rain left the muddy roads churned up and treacherous.
"The weekend was a big, big adventure," said Solberg who is third overall with 59 points to Loeb's 66. "To finish fourth after everything that happened is a fantastic feeling."
Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah was fifth in a Citroen.
1. Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen 4:19:24.300
2. Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +01:51.800
3. Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford 03:25.000
4. Petter Solberg (Norway) Ford 03:47.400
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Citroen 07:57.600
6. Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford 08:01.000
7. Dennis Kuipers (Netherlands) Ford 08:39.100
8. Sebastien Ogier (France) Skoda 09:00.800
9. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Citroen 10:29.700
10. Jari Ketomaa (Finland) Ford 11:44.600