Mikko Hirvonen won the 56th Acropolis Rally of Greece in Athens, with a comfortable win over Sebastian Ogier.
|Hirvonen tries not to get distracted by the view [GALLO/GETTY]
The 28-year-old Ford driver sealed his eighth World Rally Championship (WRC) victory by finishing the final stage one minute 12.9 seconds ahead of Frenchman Ogier, who had the best result of his career.
The win allowed the Finn to close the gap on WRC leader Sebastien Loeb, who crashed out on Saturday, to seven points in the overall standings ahead of the eighth round of the WRC, the Rally of Poland, which starts on June 26.
Hirvonen's team mate Jari-Matti Latvala took third place in the rally after finishing 32.1 seconds behind Ogier, completing a remarkable recovery after going off the road on Friday's opening day and allowing Ford to earn a maximum 18 points in the manufacturers' championship.
Back in the game
"I drove cleverly, no punctures, no mistakes, it was fantastic," said Hirvonen.
"If you get through a difficult rally like this without suffering problems, you are the winner. Now we are back in the fight (for the championship)."
Hirvonen began the final day holding a commanding lead of 1:40 over Ogier and the Finn's cautious but trouble-free drive in the difficult gravel conditions earned him victory.
After four second-place finishes this year, the win reinvigorated his battle with Loeb, who has won the last five WRC titles and was 17 points ahead before the Greece Rally.
Loeb escaped unhurt on Saturday when his car careered off the track and rolled over several times after he hit a rock.
His Citroen team mate Dani Sordo was also forced to retire when he broke a rear wheel on a rock.
On Sunday, Ogier's car sustained front-end damage when it hit a cow on the Aghii Theodori 14th stage but the Frenchman was able to continue.
The penultimate stage of the event was cancelled on safety grounds because of the unexpectedly large number of spectators along the 8.98-km route.