Sebastien Ogier made the most of running behind Sebastien Loeb over the final five stages of the Acropolis Rally on Sunday to claim his third victory in the world championship this season.

Ogier began day three of the punishing gravel event 2.2s behind his Citroen team-mate Loeb, having dropped time on Saturday’s final stage due to a combination of hanging dust clouds and his eagerness to gain a more advantageous road position for the final-day battle.

He appeared to have benefitted from being able to drive over the cleaner lines created by Loeb through the loose surface gravel when he moved into the lead by 0.1s after Sunday’s opening stage. Loeb fought back with a faster time through the next run, which gave the seven-time world champion top spot once more by the same amount heading to the mid-morning service in Loutraki.

But with Loeb’s road position proving more of a hindrance on the repeated stages 16 and 17, the flying Ogier was able to build a lead of 10.5s with just the Power Stage left to run.

“It was a difficult start on Friday but I managed to find a good rhythm, especially yesterday when we pushed hard,” said the 27-year-old Frenchman, who was co-driven in his works Citroen DS3 WRC by countryman Julien Ingrassia. “I am very happy and it’s perfect to get this result.”

Ogier had courted controversy - and incurred his team-mate’s frustration - by dropping behind Loeb on Saturday’s night stage. He explained: “I slowed down a bit but even before that I was not fast in the stage. There was so much dust I didn’t want to push and take the risk.”

As well as claiming 25 points for winning overall, Ogier bagged three bonus points for going fastest on the event-closing Power Stage by a scant margin of 0.009s over Loeb, whose second place in the intense Greek heat was his 100th podium finish in the WRC. Citroen’s one-two finish means it now holds a 55-point lead over Ford in the manufacturers’ championship.

“It has been a great battle for sure but it was a bit frustrating not to win because I think we were the fastest on the rally,” said Loeb. “We cleaned the road two times and that was a big disadvantage. We could not do any better.”

Mikko Hirvonen, in the lead factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC, closed to within 2.6s of Loeb starting the Power Stage but had to settle for third. The result means Loeb now heads the Finnish driver, who was fastest on stage 16, by 17 points in the drivers’ rankings heading to Hirvonen’s home event next month.

Jari-Matti Latvala was quickest on four of Sunday’s five stages in the second works Ford, but delays experienced earlier in the event due to mechanical failures restricted the Finn to ninth in the final classification, one place behind Super 2000 World Rally Championship winner and countryman Juho Hanninen.

Petter Solberg, who held a commanding lead after day one, had to settle for fourth in his privateer Citroen. “I was happy with my performance but I can’t do more than this,” said the Norwegian. “I pushed hard and tried everything but a private team is a private team and it’s difficult.”

Solberg’s older brother Henning scored a season-best fifth in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta, one place ahead of team-mate Matthew Wilson, who was slowed on the final stage by a recurrence of the misfire that delayed him on Saturday’s stages. Briton Wilson has now scored on six of the seven rounds run so far in 2011, however.

Kimi Raikkonen returned to the WRC for the first time since the Jordan Rally in mid-April and finished seventh in his Ice 1 Racing Citroen. “There was not much we could win today so we’ve been taking it pretty easy and driving it home,” said the 2007 Formula One world champion at the finish.

Dennis Kuipers claimed the final drivers’ championship point for the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team. Afterwards, the Fiesta-driving Dutchman said: “I’m really happy because I never thought a result like this could happen. I felt really good and there were no big problems or big mistakes.” Kuipers’ father Rene finished 17th on his first start in a Fiesta RS WRC.

Munchi’s Fiesta driver Federico Villagra was forced out by the power problems that had delayed him on day two. A mechanical failure led to Daniel Oliveira retiring his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC on Sunday’s opening test.


Pos  Driver                   Team/Car                  Time/Gap  1.  Sebastien Ogier          Citroen                 4h04m44.3s  2.  Sebastien Loeb           Citroen                    + 10.5s  3.  Mikko Hirvonen           Ford                       + 13.5s  4.  Petter Solberg           Solberg Citroen            + 38.8s  5.  Henning Solberg          Stobart Ford             + 5m24.7s  6.  Matthew Wilson           Stobart Ford             + 6m54.7s  7.  Kimi Raikkonen           Ice 1 Citroen            + 8m29.4s  8.  Juho Hanninen            Red Bull Skoda          + 11m34.7s  9.  Jari-Matti Latvala       Ford                    + 13m08.8s 10.  Dennis Kuipers           FERM Ford               + 15m10.1s  Other WRC finishers:  12.  Mads Ostberg             Stobart Ford            + 17m17.4s 17.  Rene Kuipers             FERM Ford               + 31m12.4s 19.  Lambros Athanassoulas    Greece Ford             + 35m24.4s 20.  Evgeny Novikov           Stobart Ford            + 41m47.4s  WRC retirements:       Federico Villagra        Munchi's Ford                 SS16      Daniel Oliveira          Brazil Mini                   SS14      Armindo Araujo           Italia Mini                    SS9      Peter van Merksteijn Sr  Van Merksteijn Citroen         SS6      Peter van Merksteijn     Van Merksteijn Citroen         SS3  Leading Power Stage results:  Pos  Driver                   Team/Car                  Time/Gap  1.  Sebastien Ogier          Citroen                    2m22.7s  2.  Sebastien Loeb           Citroen                     + 0.0s  3.  Mikko Hirvonen           Ford                        + 0.4s  4.  Petter Solberg           Solberg Citroen             + 1.3s  5.  Jari-Matti Latvala       Ford                        + 2.4s

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