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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 06:13 GMT
Loeb equals rally victory record
Sebastien Loeb on the Rally Australia
Loeb ended a year of domination with a win
France's Sebastien Loeb reinforced his position as new world champion at the Rally Australia with a record-equalling sixth victory in a year.

Citroen driver Loeb finished in 3 hours 39 minutes and 46.8 seconds after 25 stages - 1:55.1 ahead of Finland's Harri Rovanpera in a Peugeot 307.

Belgian Francois Duval was third in his Ford Focus, 3:40.2 behind.

The victory was Loeb's first in Australia and he equals compatriot Didier Auriol's six rallies in 1992.

Norwegian Subaru driver Petter Solberg, who was forced to retire from the rally with steering trouble, finished second in the final world championship standings.

Ford's Estonian driver Markko Martin - also a retiree in Australia - finishes third.

Northern Ireland's Niall McShea won the Production championship after Alister McRae was forced to retire on the final day with differential failure in his Subaru.

Both McShea and McRae had headed into the final round in Australia as title contenders alongside previous leader Jani Paasonen of Finland, who retired on day two.

Meanwhile, Finland's Marcus Gronholm escaped serious injury after smashing his Peugeot 307 into a tree during the penultimate stage.

Gronholm, who had already retired from the event, slammed into the tree at high speed and rolled the car which was left a twisted mess.

Both he and co-driver Tim Rautiainen walked away from the crash but Gronholm was taken to hospital for a precautionary check-up.

Gronholm had been competing under the super special rally rules which allow drivers to resume despite being forced out.

Rally Australia final standings:
1. Sebastien Loeb (Fra Citroen 3hrs 39min 46.8sec
2. Harri Rovanpera (Fin) Peugeot at 1min 55.1sec
3. Francois Duval (Bel) Ford 3:40.2
4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Subaru 6:00.4
5. Chris Atkinson (Aus) Subaru 16:55.6
6. Xavier Pons (Esp) Mitsubishi 17:36.1
7. Cody Crocker (Aus) Subaru 17:43.3
8. Toshi Arai (Jap) Subaru 19:32.3
9. Niall McShea (GB) Subaru 19:55.7
10. Mirco Baldacci (RSM) Mitsubish Lancer 22:56.3

Stage winners:
Loeb (SS4, SS5, SS10, SS14, SS15, SS20, SS21, SS23), Petter Solberg (Nor) Subaru Impreza WRC (SS8, SS9, SS11, SS12, SS13, SS16, SS17, SS24, SS25), Marcus Gronholm (Fin) Peugeot (SS1, SS2, SS3, SS6, SS7, SS22), Rovanpera (SS18, SS19)




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