Hirvonen loses Portugal win after FIA inspection
(Reuters) - Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen has been stripped of victory in the Rally of Portugal, as well as the lead in the world championship, after the Finn's car failed post-event scrutineering.
The decision late on Sunday night meant French team mate and eight times world champion Sebastien Loeb stayed top of the standings despite failing to score a point.
Norwegian Mads Ostberg was handed the victory, his first, with Russian Evgeny Novikov in second place and Norway's former champion Petter Solberg completing a podium sweep for Ford despite crashing out on Friday.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said a report from the technical delegate stated that the clutch did not conform to the rules.
"The stewards therefore excluded car number two from the event classification."
The turbo turbine also appeared not to conform, but a decision on this was suspended. The stewards asked the FIA technical delegate to carry out a further examination and report back to them.
Citroen team principal Yves Matton said the reigning champions would be appealing against the exclusion, meaning the results remained provisional.
"We had no intention whatsoever to cheat and the decision appears out of proportion. Given the fact that the reported differences didn't bring us any advantage, we've decided to appeal," he said.
Technical director Xavier Mestelan-Pinon said the problem arose from a discrepancy between the homologation sheet and the components fitted.
"The Citroen DS3 WRCs clutch mechanisms are homologated with lightening holes. Our supplier recently provided us with a batch of parts that were not perforated and one of them was fitted to (Hirvonen's car)," he explained.
"These parts don't provide any gain in terms of performance, as they are heavier than those, which are homologated."
If the exclusion is upheld, Citroen's lead over Ford in the championship will be cut to 12 points while Loeb, who had started the rally 16 points ahead of Hirvonen, will be four clear of Solberg.
"Nobody likes to see the results settled in the officials room and I feel sorry for Mikko and Jarmo," Solberg said in a Ford statement after the fourth round event.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)
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