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September 4, 2009

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Ogier jumps out in front Down Under

SEBASTIEN Ogier of France took the early lead in Rally Australia yesterday as the World Rally Championship returned Down Under after an absence of three years.
Ogier's combined time over two brief special stages on a 2.55-kilometer asphalt track in the northern New South Wales town of Murwillumbah in his Citreon was 3 minutes, 35.1 seconds, putting him 3.5 seconds ahead of Norwegian veteran Henning Solberg's Ford.
Sebastien Loeb of France was third in his Citreon, 0.8 seconds further back.
Loeb's teammate Dani Sordo of Spain was fourth, followed by Finnish Ford teammates, Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikka Hirvonen, who holds a three-point lead over Loeb in the standings after nine rounds.
Hirvonen has won the past three rallies and as the leader will be the first car out today on the official opening day of the three-day, 35-stage rally.
"It was a difficult start," Hirvonen said. "I didn't feel so confident tackling an asphalt stage on gravel tires, but that will all change once we move onto the more traditional gravel roads in the morning."
The rally is being held in New South Wales state for the first time, shifting from Perth, Western Australia, where Rally Australia was held until 2006.
The final two rallies of the season will be on October 2-4 in Salou, Spain, and the Rally Great Britain in Cardiff, Wales, from October 23-25.


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