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Ogier wins Rally France to cut Loeb's lead

October 2, 2011

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STRASBOURG, France—Sebastien Ogier held off a strong challenge from Daniel Sordo of Spain to win the Rally France on Sunday and make up ground in the title race.

Mikko Hirvonen of Finland finished third to join defending champion Sebastien Loeb at the top of the standings.

Ogier beat Sordo by 6.3 seconds to complete the 23 stages in 3 hours, 6 minutes, 20.4 seconds in his Citroen, and pull within three points of Loeb.

"I'm really happy with the outcome of this race," Ogier told the WRC website. "I did exactly what I had to do by looking at Dani and the split times. I took the lead but I did not take the risk."

Loeb retired on Friday after his Citroen had an engine failure and did not score any points in his native Alsace region.

Petter Solberg of Norway initially took third place, but he was later disqualified after his car was found to be about nine pounds shy of the regulation minimum weight. Hirvonen earned three more points as a result.

Solberg's team did not appeal the decision.

Sordo started the day 9.5 seconds behind Ogier and won stage 19 in his Mini to pull within 4.9 seconds of the lead. But Ogier responded by winning stage 22 to get some breathing room.

"It's our best result with the Mini," Sordo said. "We have been able to fight for victory and it's very encouraging."

Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland took four of Sunday's six stages, but helped Ford teammate Hirvonen leapfrog him into fourth place by starting the last stage with a two-minute time penalty for checking in early at the pre-stage regroup.

"I owe Jari-Matti a big thank you," Hirvonen said. "Again, he proved what a superb team player he is. There's no more room for error over the final two rounds and it should be a great end to the championship."

The drivers next compete at the Rally of Spain in Salou from Oct. 20-23 before the season ends with the Wales Rally in Cardiff from Nov. 10-13.

"You can see now the championship is very close between three drivers," Ogier said. "This weekend there was a lot of drama especially on the first day and anything can happen to anybody on the next event."