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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 October 2006, 06:40 GMT
Loeb seals his third world title
Sebastien Loeb
Frenchman Loeb is only the third driver to win three world titles
Sebastien Loeb was crowned World Rally champion for the third straight year as Finn Mikko Hirvonen won in Australia.

Frenchman Loeb, 32, clinched the title in his Citroen despite being sidelined with a broken arm.

Marcus Gronholm needed to finish in the top four in Australia to keep the championship race alive but was fifth after crashing his Ford on Friday.

Loeb said: "Luckily for me, I had a good number of points before I had my accident. It's a very nice feeling."

Loeb, who broke his arm in a cycling accident, is only the third driver to win three world championships.

He said: "When you are at home and you know you can't drive and you're watching the rally on the internet, it's very difficult, very frustrating to not be able to fight.

"It's good to know that we won the championship."

He emulates Finnish duo Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen, who both won four world titles each.

Kankkunen was king in 1986, 1987, 1991 and 1993 while Makinen claimed four championships in a row from 1996-99.

Loeb, who also missed the Turkish rally, had a 25-point lead over Gronholm going into the Australian event.

He now leads by 21 points with just two races left - in New Zealand and Wales.

Loeb, who was a gymnast before taking up rally driving, is only the second Frenchman to have secured the world title after Didier Auriol, who won in 1994.

Mikko Hirvonen
Hirvonen claimed his first rally win
Loeb joined Citroen in 2001, winning his first race the following year in Germany.

He wons three races in 2002, eventually finishing runner-up to Gronholm.

Hirvonen, driving a Ford Focus, captured his first rally win by completing the treacherous 26-stage event in Australia in an aggregate time of three hours 15 minutes 11.8 seconds.

Norway's Petter Solberg, the 2003 world champion, finished second in a Subaru, 37.1 seconds behind.

Austrian Manfred Stohl was third overall, almost a further four minutes behind Solberg in his Peugeot.

Spain's Xavier Pons, driving a Citroen in the absence of the injured Loeb, finished fourth, more than seven and a half minutes ahead of Gronholm.


Official result from Australia:

1. Mikko Hirvonen, Finland, Ford, 3 hours, 15 minutes, 11.8 seconds
2. Petter Solberg, Norway, Subaru, 3:15.48.9
3. Manfred Stohl, Austria, Peugeot, 3:19.10.4
4. Xavier Pons, Spain, Citroen, 3:19.57.2
5. Marcus Gronholm, Finland, Ford, 3:27.35.6
6. Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, Ford, 3:32.21.0
7. Mirco Baldacci, San Marino, Mitsubishi, 3:32.54.7
8. Dean Herridge, Australia, Subaru, 3:33.33.8
9. Sebastien Beltran, Argentina, Mitsubishi, 3:41.35.3
10. Chris Atkinson, Australia, Subaru, 3:42.17.3

Overall standings:

1. S Loeb (France) 112 pts
2. M Grönholm (Finland) 91
3. M Hirvonen (Finland) 57
4. D Sordo (Spain) 43
5. M Stohl (Austria) 40
6. P Solberg (Norway) 31
7. H Solberg (Norway) 25
8. X Pons (Spain) 23
9. T Gardemeister (Finland) 20
10. C Atkinson (Australia) 17


SEE ALSO
Crash hits Gronholm title hopes
27 Oct 06 |  Rallying
McRae return proves short-lived
18 Oct 06 |  Rallying
Gronholm closes gap with victory
15 Oct 06 |  Rallying
Gronholm on course for Turkey win
14 Oct 06 |  Rallying
Gronholm takes charge in Turkey
13 Oct 06 |  Rallying
McRae steps in for injured Loeb
04 Oct 06 |  Rallying
Title-chasing Loeb hit by injury
27 Sep 06 |  Rallying


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