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   Sunday, 3 November, 2002, 06:15 GMT
Gronholm continues his dominance
Carlos Sainz in action in the Rally of Australia
Carlos Sainz flipped his Ford and lost a minute

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm confirmed his domination of this year's World Rally Championship with his third consecutive victory in the Rally of Australia.

The Finn, who was crowned world champion at last month's Rally of New Zealand, came home almost a minute ahead of compatriot and team-mate Harri Rovanpera.

The stages are flat out the whole time in fifth and sixth gear and that helped Peugeot

Subaru's Petter Solberg

Gronholm opted for caution on the final day as he preserved his lead before setting the fastest time on the final 'Bannister North' stage.

Rovanpera set the pace on the first three stages of the day as Peugeot recorded their ninth one-two finish of the season.

"When you've got a good lead, you have to keep pushing to a certain level to keep your own concentration and also make sure the guys behind don't get too close," said Gronholm.

"That's what I've been doing. But I have the feeling that I could possibly have gone a little quicker than I have done."

Norwegian Petter Solberg slipped from second overnight to third after making a poor tyre choice that left his Subaru with significantly reduced grip on the loose gravel surface.

"I was trying very hard, but I knew it would be difficult to beat the Peugeots today," said Solberg.

"The stages are flat out the whole time in fifth and sixth gear and that helped them."

Makinen excluded

But there was worse news for Solberg's Subaru team-mate Tommi Makinen who was excluded from the race after race stewards discovered that his car was underweight.

Makinen had finished the race in fourth but was later excluded when it was found that his Impreza WRC weighed less than the minimum 1230 kilograms specified by FIA regulations.

Subaru are considering an appeal.

Makinen's exclusion promoted Ford pair Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Estonian Markko Martin to fourth and fifth respectively, with Skoda's Finn Toni Gardemeister securing the final point in sixth.

Ford's Francois Duval was taken to hospital after crashing out on the penultimate stage.

The Belgian, who was lying sixth at the time, is not thought to be seriously hurt but his car was badly damaged.

There was an unpleasant case of deja vu for Spaniard Carlos Sainz.


Leading times

1. Marcus Gronholm (Fin) Peugeot Three hours 35 minutes 56.5 seconds
2. Harri Rovanpera (Fin) Peugeot +57.3 secs
3. Petter Solberg (Nor) Subaru +1:28.7
4. Carlos Sainz (Spa) Ford +3:09
5. Markko Martin (Est) Ford +6:21.5
6. Toni Gardemeister (Fin) Skoda +7:11.6
7. Sebastien Loeb (Fra) Citroen +9:06.1
8. Kenneth Eriksson (Swe) Skoda +12:46.46
9. Jani Paasonen (Finland) Mitsubishi +13:25.5
10. Thomasz Kuchar (Pol) Toyota, +21:38.6
Subaru's Tommi Makinen finished fourth but was excluded because his vehicle did not conform to technical requirements. Subaru are considering an appeal

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Sport's Greg Strange
"Another magnificent victory for Gronholm"
World Rally Championship
This year's rallies:

TOP TEAMS AND DRIVERS

 
 
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