Motorsport: Hirvonen wins in Italy

Finland's Mikko Hirvonen has finally won the Rally of Italy in Sardinia for the first time after finishing runner-up on five occasions.

The Citroen driver took top spot ahead of two Ford Fiesta drivers with Russia's Evgeny Novikov second at 1min 20.6sec and Estonia's Ott Tanak third 2:21.1 off the pace.

"I feel like I've just won my first rally! It feels really, really good,'' said Hirvonen, who secured his first victory this season and first as a Citroen driver, but the 15th of his career.

"This was the goal we had before the rally and finally everything worked well. I've been five times second here and to finally win the rally I'm really pleased with that.''

Novikov, 22, added: "I hope that this second podium of the year (after Portugal) will help me to challenge next season.''

The victory also guarantees 32-year-old Hirvonen second place in the overall drivers' standings behind French teammate Sebastien Loeb for the fourth time ahead of the final round in Spain next month.

Loeb, who claimed his ninth successive world drivers title on home ground in France a fortnight ago, crashed out of the race during Friday's third special stage.

Norway's Mads Ostberg finished fourth despite winning five stages after his Ford Fiesta suffered a puncture in the the closing Power Stage.

Ostberg moves into third place in the drivers' standing heading to the season finale next month.

- AFP

_AAP

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