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Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen took first place in Rally Norway on Sunday, with fellow countryman Marcus Gronholm taking the runner-up spot in this third round of the World Rally Championship.

It was left to Norwegian brothers Henning and Petter Solberg to salvage a bit of home pride, taking third and fourth places respectively.

However, it was Hirvonen who led from the start, securing victory with a series of assured drives through the difficult snow stages of this event. This is his second victory in the WRC, winning in Australia last year and he has put a marker down a contender to take the title outright.

The win also puts Hirvonen in 2nd place in the championship, helped by Frenchman Sebastien Loeb’s finishing out of the points in 14th place after a disappointing rally by his standards.

Loeb, three-times defending world champion, hit a snow bank on Saturday, losing eight minutes in the process and never recovered any momentum.

The results also capped a remarkable result for the Ford Focus, taking the first three places and is a further sign of the Blue Oval’s renaissance in the competition. It is Ford’s first clean sweep since 1979.

In the Junior Round, Sweden’s Per Gunnar Andersson took first place in a Suzuki, with fellow countryman Patrick Sandell second and Estonia’s Urmo Aava, third.

Ireland’s Shaun Gallagher came eighth, but leads the coveted ‘Rookie Class’.

Next event is Rally Mexico, 9 -11 March.

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