7 Sep 2009

Loeb robbed of Rally Australia crown

7:18 am on 7 September 2009

Five-time world champion Sebastien Loeb has been stripped of victory and relegated to second place in the Rally of Australia because of a technical infringement with his Citroen car.

The decision meant Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, who had been 12.5 seconds behind Loeb, was declared the winner with the Finn stretching his championship lead to five points with two rounds remaining.

Stewards for the governing body FIA found that the front anti-roll bar link on Loeb's car did not conform to the regulations.

Citroen told the stewards their cars driven by Spain's Dani Sordo and France's Sebastien Ogier were also fitted with the illegal roll bars and as a result all three drivers were handed one minute penalties and a reprimand issued to the team.

Organisers said Citroen had not appealed the ruling.

Sordo remained in third place despite the penalty while Ogier dropped from fourth to fifth.

The penalty could have a major bearing on deciding a championship already reduced to a straight shootout between Loeb and Hirvonen.

Loeb, who won the first five rallies of the season but hasn't won since, would have closed the gap to just one point had the victory stood.

The Frenchman's relegation leaves Hirvonen needing to finish only second in Spain and Britain to take the title even if Loeb wins both races.