Loeb reigns in Spain
Hirvonen 2nd, Latvala 3rd
Sebastien Loeb has won RallyRACC-Rally de Espana to edge clear of Mikko Hirvonen in the race for the 2011 World Rally Championship crown.
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Loeb maintained his overnight advantage for his seventh win in Spain and his fifth of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Elena. In doing so he helped Citroen wrap up the manufacturers’ title for a seventh time.
Jari-Matti Latvala began the final day in a strong second place following an inspired performance behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, which he described as his best performance on asphalt.
However, with team-mate Hirvonen needing to maximise his points total in his bid to prevent Loeb from claiming his eighth world title, Latvala ceded position to his fellow Finn for the third event in a row.
“We have done a really good weekend but coming from three bad rallies I could not believe this result before we came to the end,” said Loeb. “Mikko has taken a lot of points so we stay very close in the championship.”
Dani Sordo gave the thousands of Spanish fans lining the route reason for cheer when he finished fourth in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Sebastien Ogier had been closing on the local hero when his Citroen suffered an engine-related failure on the penultimate stage.
Juho Hanninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula secured the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title in their Red Bull Skoda Fabia by winning the category. Patrik Flodin edged Michal Kosciuszko in a close battle for Production Car championship honours.
Meeke wins Power Stage
Kris Meeke has won the RallyRACC-Rally de Espana Power Stage to claim his first stage victory in the World Rally Championship in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
In slippery conditions caused by a sudden downpour prior to the run, Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle headed MINI team-mate Dani Sordo by 0.2s with rally winner Sebastien Loeb third fastest in his Citroen DS3 WRC.
Meeke, who had never tackled a Power Stage before, took full advantage of an inspired tyre choice when he opted to leave mid-morning service in Salou with a combination of two soft compound tyres and two hard compound tyres in the knowledge that rain was being forecast for the afternoon. Crucially he also had two spare soft tyres onboard - ideal for damp conditions - which he, like Sordo, was able to bolt on prior to the rain-hit stage.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the Northern Irishman. “I have to say a big thank you to the team. It was their call with the tyres, I thought it was wrong because we had two long stages before but it was right. Beating Dani is also something special.”
Event winner Loeb said: “We got one point for the Power Stage and that is very important. With the MINIs on soft tyres we had no chance but we have done the best we could.”
With rain coating sections of the stage several drivers struggled for grip in the slippery conditions, particularly those running higher up the order.
Khalid Al Qassimi was one driver who suffered a number of slides in his Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta, which was equipped with hard compound dry-weather tyres. He said: “I was not aware it was fully wet and my tyres were hard and cold. It was impossible, I was just cruising.”
Standings after SS18:
|01||S. LOEB / D. ELENA||Citroën DS3 WRC||4h05m39.3s|
|02||M. HIRVONEN / J. LEHTINEN||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2m06.9s|
|03||J. LATVALA / M. ANTTILA||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2m32.4s|
|04||D. SORDO / C. DEL BARRIO||MINI WRC||+3m24.1s|
|05||K. MEEKE / P. NAGLE||MINI WRC||+5m15.0s|
|06||M. ØSTBERG / J. ANDERSSON||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+5m54.2s|
|07||E. NOVIKOV / D. GIRAUDET||Citroën DS3 WRC||+9m31.8s|
|08||H. SOLBERG / I. MINOR||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+9m40.1s|
|09||D. KUIPERS / F. MICLOTTE||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+11m13.8s|
|10||J. HÄNNINEN / M. MARKKULA||SKODA Fabia S2000||+13m49.2s|
|11||N. AL-ATTIYAH / G. BERNACCHINI||FORD Fiesta S2000||+14m04.1s|
|12||K. AL QASSIMI / M. ORR||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+14m39.0s|
|13||M. PROKOP / J. TOMÁNEK||FORD Fiesta S2000||+14m46.9s|
|14||Y. LEMES / R. PEÑATE||SKODA Fabia S2000||+15m11.3s|
|15||C. BREEN / G. ROBERTS||FORD Fiesta S2000||+16m09.4s|
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