Finland's Mikko Hirvonen won the Rally of Italy on Sunday in the absence of Citroen team mate and nine-times world champion Sebastien Loeb.

Frenchman Loeb hit rocks and retired on Friday on the first full day of the rally in Sardinia, the penultimate round of the championship and first event since he retained his title in France earlier this month.

Russian Evgeny Novikov was second, one minute 20 seconds behind, with Estonian Ott Tanak third, both in privately-entered Fords.

The victory was Hirvonen's first for Citroen, and 15th of his career, and secured second place overall in the standings. Loeb has an unassailable 244 points, Hirvonen 198.

"It feels a bit like I've won my very first rally," said the Finn, who will be Citroen's main works driver next year with Loeb not defending the title.

"Maybe it wasn't such a big fight but there will be more in future."

Ford works drivers Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala finished ninth and 12th respectively, after also crashing out on Friday and restarting with time penalties, but picked up bonus points for first and second places in the closing Power Stage.

The final round of the season is in Spain on 8-11 November.