Jari-Matti Latvala slows to let Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen lead in Australia

Mikko Hirvonen is set for victory on Rally Australia after Jari-Matti Latvala slowed to let his Ford team-mate take the lead on the penultimate stage

Jari-Matti Latvala slows to let Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen lead in Australia

Ford had openly admitted that it was likely to apply team orders to ensure Hirvonen won however the rest of the weekend unfolded, as once both Citroens had crashed on Friday, Hirvonen and Latvala were left in an unrivalled first and second. Hirvonen led at that stage, but as he ran first on the road on Saturday, Latvala was able to move ahead and eventually establish a 22-second lead.

With Hirvonen within 36 points of championship leader Sebastien Loeb, who looked unlikely to finish in the top 10, and Latvala 96 points down, both Ford drivers were realistic about what was likely to have to happen, and in the closing miles of the Plum Pudding stage, Latvala slowed to let Hirvonen take a 15.1-second lead into the final stage of the rally.

"I stopped before the yellow board," Latvala said. "We have decided in the team that Mikko has better chances in the drivers' championship so he can win the rally and I need to support him.

"Of course every driver who wants to win the rally needs to have a passion for it. I have a passion for it for sure, but you need to see the bigger picture."

Hirvonen said he felt the team orders were fair at this stage in the championship battle. Although Latvala was a designated number two earlier in his career with the factory Ford team, in recent years he has been given an equal title shot and was only required to move aside this time because of the points situation.

"Unfortunately he lost his chances for the title a few months ago so we agreed that we are equal as long as it's possible for both," Hirvonen said. "But he's helping me now. It helps me a lot in the title fight. There's a long way to go for sure but I lost the title by one point [in 2009] so I know every point counts."

Citroen has also elected to employ team orders to assist Loeb. Although Sebastien Ogier is still second in the standings and only 25 points behind Loeb, he has been asked to take a time penalty for checking in five minutes late at the start of SS25 and then stopped for nearly 10 minutes on the stage to drop time to fall behind Loeb and allow the reigning champion a shot at scoring a point.

Going into the stage, Ogier had recovered to ninth place and was within sight of eighth-placed Oleksandr Saliuk, while Loeb was in 12th and closing on 11th-placed Valeriy Gorban, whose he passed during the stage to move into 10th overall, with Ogier now just behind Gorban in 12th. The two Citroens were running just over 10 minutes apart as Loeb incurred two additional stages of penalties on Friday.

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Ford reveals that Jari-Matti Latvala will let Mikko Hirvonen past on SS25 in Australia
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