Rallying: Hirvonen seals Ford's flying start

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The Independent Online

Mikko Hirvonen led a Ford podium clean-sweep as he held off the challenge of Mads Ostberg to win the season-opening Rally of Sweden by just over six seconds yesterday.

The factory Ford driver held a 7.4-second advantage heading into the final day and gave an assured display over the final leg to kick off his 2011 campaign in style. "It's absolutely fantastic," said Hirvonen, who celebrated his 13th WRC win and second in a row in Sweden.

Stobart Ford driver Ostberg had enjoyed a 30-second lead at one point on the opening day but failed to hold off the flying Finn as the weekend played out. Nevertheless, he was delighted to claim his first WRC podium. "It's unbelievable," said the Norwegian.

Jari-Matti Latvala completed the top three in the second factory Ford as the manufacturer sent out a strong statement of intent to arch-rivals Citroën, who filled positions four through six with Sebastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and reigning WRC champion Sébastien Loeb.