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Hirvonen stripped of Rally of Portugal win

FARO, Portugal, April 2 – Mikko Hirvonen was stripped of his Rally of Portugal win when the clutch on his factory Citroen was deemed illegal, leaving Ford’s Mads Ostberg to celebrate his maiden triumph.

Hirvonen, the runner-up in the 2011 world championship, had been celebrating his first win as a Citroen driver, and 15th overall in his career, after finishing 1min 51.8sec ahead of Ostberg.

The win had also put the Finn on top of the overall championship standings.

But stewards later deemed the car’s clutch to have breached technical regulations and excluded Hirvonen from the race classification.

A Citroen spokesman said that the team recognised the infringement but that the punishment was “disproportionate” and, as a result, they would appeal.

The decision also meant that world champion Sebastien Loeb, Hirvonen’s teammate at Citroen, retains the overall lead in the championship despite the Frenchman having failed to finish the race.

Loeb has a four-point lead over Petter Solberg and 16-point advantage over Hirvonen.

Ostberg, 24, was sixth in the championship in 2011, having claimed a modest two podium places.

Russia’s Evgeny Novikov, who was third originally in Portugal on Sunday, was promoted to second place in the race standings with fellow Ford Fiesta driver Solberg, the 2003 world champion, taking third spot.

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Solberg had finished 3:47.4 behind Hirvonen while Ford factory teammate Jari-Matti Latvala had fallen foul of Friday’s treacherous muddy and foggy conditions.

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