Ford claimed a dominant one-two finish in Rally Australia, with Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen winning the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 14.7sec ahead of fellow Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila in a similar Fiesta RS WRC.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr claimed a career-best fifth in the team's other Fiesta RS WRC.
Overnight leader Latvala, whose hopes of championship success vanished earlier in the season, was happy to support his team-mate's title bid. He went into the penultimate speed test with a 13.4sec advantage over Hirvonen, but slowed near the finish to allow him to move ahead.
It was the team's first double success since May 2009 in Italy, and the result promoted Hirvonen to second in the drivers' standings, just 15 points from the lead with three rounds remaining.
Hirvonen was quick to pay tribute to his colleague. "At the start of the season we agreed to help each other, and Jari-Matti showed today what a team player he is. He had a great opportunity to win this rally but he gave it up to help me in my fight for the championship and I appreciate that. Two years ago I lost the world title by a single point, so every point counts," he said.
Ford held the upper hand since midway through Friday's rain-soaked opening leg near the east coast rally base of Coffs Harbour. Hirvonen headed Latvala after the first day, before Latvala took advantage of more favourable conditions on the drying gravel roads to move ahead on Saturday. He started sunday with a 22.7sec advantage and with no pressure from behind, so the crew were able to control their pace to the finish after 26 special stages and 230 miles of predominantly dirt-road competition. Latvala claimed two bonus points after setting second fastest time on the final live TV Power Stage.
Al Qassimi steered clear of trouble to exceed his targets. "This is a historic day for motorsport in Abu Dhabi," he said. "My plan was to be as close to the top five as possible and I more than met my expectations. I enjoyed a clear run in difficult conditions and mixed terrain. I was extremely nervous through the final stages because I didn't want to push and risk losing my position."
Ford paid tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks by carrying memorial stickers on its Fiesta RS WRCs on Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic events in Washington and New York.
Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson admitted at the finish that he was relieved. "This was a terrific result for the team after a difficult season and it has put Mikko back in the title fight. We were convincing winners and it was a great effort from every individual in the team," he said.
Meanwhile, M-Sport Stobart Ford crew Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin finished fourth in a Fiesta RS WRC, equalling Wilson's career-best result. Team-mates Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor rolled on the final stage on Sunday morning but recovered to finish 14th despite losing almost three minutes. The squad's third Fiesta RS WRC, crewed by Evgeny Novikov/Denis Giraudet, retired from ninth after a heavy roll on the second stage on Sunday. Both crew members were unhurt.
Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino completed the Fiesta finishers in 19th after recovering from a first day crash. The Citroen team, which has been dominant this season, suffered from a miserable event, with only Loeb appearing in the top ten finishers despite a heavy crash on Friday, which dropped him out of the rally. However, he re-entered under the Super Rally rules. He Citroen team-mate, Sebastien Ogier had taken the provisional lead from Loeb following the incident but also crashed out on the first day in very slippery conditions.
The next round returns to asphalt when Rallye de France takes place on 29 September in the north-eastern city of Strasbourg, close to the German border.
|1.||M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen||FIN||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 35min 59.0sec|
|2.||J-M Latvala/M Anttila||FIN||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 36min 13.7sec|
|3.||P Solberg/C Patterson||NOR||Citroen DS3||3hr 36min 43.8sec|
|4.||M Wilson/S Martin||GBR||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 44min 44.2sec|
|5.||K Al Qassimi/M Orr||UAE||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 48min 32.3sec|
|6.||H Paddon/J Kennard||NZL||Subaru Impreza||3hr 53min 28.3sec|
|7.||M Kosciuszko/M Szczepaniak||POL||Mitsubishi Lancer||3hr 55min 00.3sec|
|8.||O Saliuk/P Cherepin||UKR||Mitsubishi Lancer||3hr 57min 07.5sec|
|9.||B Guerra/B Rozada||MEX||Mitsubishi Lancer||3hr 58min 47.9sec||10||S Loeb/D Elena||FRA||Citroen DS3||4hr 06min 01.9sec|