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Rally Australia disrupted by protestors

Australian police have vowed to hunt down protesters who sabotaged stages on the opening day of Rally Australia by throwing rocks at cars and blocking a stage.

Stages six and 11 were cancelled today after rocks were thrown at the course opening car and the stage was blocked when protesters against the event pulled a fence across the road. The protesters are angry that the event is disrupting their daily life, and the local environment.

World championship leader Mikko Hirvonen was first on the scene in SS6, but the Finn drove straight through the fence. Stage 11, a repeat of that test, was cancelled to allow the police investigation to get under way.

Superintendent Michael Kenny said, "The protesters involved in this rock throwing incident have shown total disregard for the safety of the competitors and officials involved in today's stage of the event. Their behaviour had the potential to seriously injure or kill somebody.

"I will make no apology for coming down hard on anybody considering radical action. Protesters who abide by the law have nothing to fear; however, any action that is unlawful will not be tolerated nor will any action which endangers people's safety."

Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala is leading the event from Citroen junior team driver Sebastien Ogier.

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