Pirelli Scorpion outright winner of rally Australia
Among drivers Loeb wins in the field, but Hirvonen extends his lead The French driver was back to his winning ways but was penalized by the judges for an irregularity in the anti-roll bar fitted on the Citroens. So the Finn still has a 5-point lead in the overall championship standings. With a surprising finish decided by the race judges Rally Australia ended with Hirvonen extending his lead over Loeb who in the field had obtained his fifth victory in the World Rally Championship 2009. The non-conformity of the anti-roll bar fitted on the Citroens of Loeb, Sordo and Ogier decided the final results of the difficult Australian round which was a tough challenge for the teams supported by the Pirelli technicians. Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier of the WRC, for the occasion supplied Scorpion tyres, the most suitable for gravel tracks. The Citroen drivers were penalized by a minute, overturning the finishing order: Hirvonen (Ford) went from second to first and Latvala (Ford) from 5th to 4th. Now, with only two rallies left, Hirvonen has a 5-point lead over Loeb, while Citroen is still leading the manufacturers' table with a 13-point lead over Ford. A nasty surprise for Loeb who hadn't won since Argentina and who had driven an exemplary race in Australia. Absent from the World Rally Championship calendar since 2006, Rally Australia moved to New South Wales for the first time this year, more than 3500 kilometres away from its former home in Perth. Consequently the gravel stages were a complete step into the unknown for both the competitors and Pirelli, which has an exclusive three-year deal to supply the World Rally Championship with tyres up to the end of the 2010 season. Although the Italian tyre firm started the event with very little information about the conditions, Pirelli's hard compound Scorpion rubber - which was being used for the last time this season - stood up to the task admirably. Among the many challenges faced by the crews were a wide range of weather conditions that varied from heavy rain to bright sunshine, sharp rocks, and changing grip levels. Despite these varying parameters, the competition was so close that the top three runners were covered by just a tenth of a second heading into the final day: a record for the World Rally Championship. As well as counting for a round of the Production Car World Rally Championship, which is also supplied by Pirelli, Rally Australia was the venue for the Asia-Pacific selection in next year's Pirelli Star Driver scheme. This programme aims to give five drivers from FIA regional championships the chance to contest six rounds of the World Rally Championship in identical Group N cars. New Zealander Hayden Paddon, aged 22, was chosen to represent the Asia-Pacific region on the scheme next year thanks to a strong performance that eventually won him the Group N category in Australia. Newly-crowned Junior World Rally Champion Martin Prokop from the Czech Republic won the Production Car World Championship class. In a region that is well-known for its outstanding natural beauty, environmental concerns are high on the agenda. All Pirelli Scorpion tyres use oil-free compounds, which already conform to future legislation due to come into force next year. Pirelli's Rally Manager Mario Isola concluded: "I don't remember ever seeing a rally that has been this closely contested between title rivals, underlining the durability and equality of our tyres. The Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres also worked well on the all-asphalt Tweed superspecial stage, which was used no fewer than six times and formed a notable proportion of the competitive action. Despite some sections that were as rough as the classic Mediterranean gravel rallies, we encountered no major problems with punctures - which has set up a thrilling finale to the season."