Hirvonen wins Rally of Portugal
Faro - Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen went top of the world championship standings on Sunday after winning the Rally of Portugal.
The Citroen factory driver, runner-up in the world championship last year, recorded his 15th career victory as he beat Sweden's Mads Ostberg in his Ford Fiesta by almost two minutes while another Fiesta pilot Evgeny Novikov of Russia was third.
Hirvonen's victory - his first since the Rally of Australia last September - gives him a nine point lead over team-mate and eight-time world champion Loeb, who went out of the race on Thursday.
Sunday's win was also Hirvonen's first as a Citroen driver and came after a dramatic weekend which not only saw Loeb come to grief, but also Ford duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg.
Both men fell foul of the treacherous muddy and foggy conditions on Friday and slid out of contention.
"The last few kilometres felt very long to me, but I managed to keep calm and avoided making mistakes," said Hirvonen, after giving Citroen a fifth win on the Rally of Portugal.
"I was concentrating on every corner. On the long 21st stage, I was a little worried because we had to drive through heavy rain in the last six kilometres."
Hirvonen admitted he was surprised to find himself at the top of the championship standings.
"It's a good result for me and for Citroen who lead Ford in the constructors' championship."
Final Rally of Portugal results after the fourth day on Sunday:
1. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN/Citroen DS3) 4hr 19min 24.3sec, 2. Mads Ostberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) at 1min 51.8sec, 3. Evgeny Novikov (RUS/Ford Fiesta RS) 3:25, 4. Petter Solberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) 3:47.4, 5. Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT/Citroen DS3) 7:57.6
Power Stage (SS22):
1. Dani Sordo, 2. Jari-Matti Latvala, 3. Ott Tanak
Stage winners: Petter Solberg 8 (SS1, SS2, SS12, SS13, SS14, SS15, SS19, SS20), Latvala 4 (SS3, SS17, SS18, SS21), Tanak 1 (SS4), Sordo 6 (SS5, SS6, SS7, SS11, SS16, SS22)
Note: Stages 8-10 on Friday cancelled.
Main retirements: Sebastien Loeb (SS3)
World championship standings (after four races):
Drivers: 1. M. Hirvonen (FIN) 75pts, 2. S. Loeb (FRA) 66pts, 3. P. Solberg (NOR) 59, 4. M. Ostberg (NOR) 46, 5. E. Novikov (RUS) 36
8. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) 18
Constructors: 1. Citroen Racing 133pts, 2. Ford 91, 3. M-Sport Ford 60, 4. Qatar 28, 5. Mini WRC 26