Record-breaking World Rally Champions honoured in India
"What an incredible season!"
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena claimed a record-breaking eighth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title in 2011 and the French/Monégasque pairing were duly crowned at the FIA Gala this evening, held for the first time in New Delhi, the capital city of India.
Unlike the racing disciplines, the FIA World Rally Championship sees the world’s greatest drivers power production-based machinery over a diverse variety of terrain, including snow, ice, semi-desert, gravel and asphalt, requiring a multitude of talent in ever-changing conditions. Adding to the challenge, this year saw the introduction of the new 1.6 litre turbo powered World Rally Car, bringing the Citroën DS3, Ford Fiesta and MINI Countryman on to the world stage. In addition, the introduction of a live televised Power Stage added a new dimension to the Championship. Run as the final test on each event, the Power Stage awarded the fastest three drivers in this single stage additional Championship points, ensuring the fight was carried through to the finish of each event.
Loeb has broken all previous records and can claim to be the most successful driver in motorsport history in terms of FIA world titles won, his eighth victory surpassing his previous joint record with FIA Formula One legend Michael Schumacher. The Frenchman, along with Elena, has started 151 world rallies, winning 67 of them to claim a 44.3% victory-per-start rate, amazingly more than twice the strike rate of his nearest modern-day rival, double FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm. Loeb won in Mexico, Italy, Argentina, Finland and Spain, but an uncharacteristic error and mechanical failure in Australia and France respectively saw the Frenchman having to battle for the title on the final round of the series in Wales. Despite both he and Championship rival Mikko Hirvonen retiring from this event, Loeb’s slim points advantage ensured his status as the 2011 FIA World Rally Champion. Behind second-placed Hirvonen, Sébastien Ogier claimed third overall in the series.
Sébastien Loeb said: “What an incredible season! The battle with the other drivers has been intense from the beginning to the end. It was so amazing! After a great start to the season we really had to battle hard again at the end of the year; we lost a lot of our advantage and it was like starting from zero all over again going into the final two rounds. This eighth title makes us very proud, it is extremely special and Daniel and I want to thank the Citroën Racing Team for their fantastic work. We will do our best to win again in 2012!”
In the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, Loeb and Ogier - who both won five world rallies this season - ensured the title was retained by their Citroën Total World Rally Team. This represents Citroën’s fourth consecutive title and seventh since 2003.
Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Racing Team Principal, said: “Our crews won 10 times this year from 13 rallies; it is a very good result and we are very proud of this achievement. However, it hasn’t been easy and our adversaries cause us no end of trouble! I want to congratulate them as well as the Citroën Team for these good results.”
2011 marked the second year of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, the series run over eight of the 13 rounds with scores from seven nominated events counting towards the title. Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula, driving a Škoda Fabia, claimed wins in Greece and Finland, leading the series into a three-way battle for the title on the closing round in Spain. Here, the Finns claimed their third victory of the season, winning the title for the first time in their careers.
In the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard also claimed a maiden Championship victory in only their second year in the series. The duo, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX STi, were unstoppable at the beginning of the season, winning their opening four rounds to take the title after Rally Australia, the fifth round of the Championship. Their victory takes a world rally title to New Zealand for the first time in history. The FIA Production Car Cup for Drivers of 2WD Cars was won by Britain’s Harry Hunt.
This year also marked the launch of the FIA WRC Academy Cup, a one-make series for the sport’s rising talent. As the first step on the WRC ladder, the WRC Academy affords youngsters aged 24 years or younger the opportunity to showcase their talent in a cost-effective six-event programme that sees the competitors driving identical Ford Fiesta R2s on Pirelli control tyres, all the equipment centrally supplied, prepared and maintained. After an exciting season-long battle, the final round in Wales provided the ultimate showdown between Egon Kaur - who had led the standings throughout the season - and second-placed Craig Breen. A dramatic turn of events led to both drivers finishing the season equal on points, but Breen and co-driver Gareth Roberts took the plaudits, having won more stages than their Estonian rivals. As well as being crowned the first winner of the FIA WRC Academy Cup, Breen takes away a €500,000 scholarship, awarded to help further his career in the FIA World Rally Championship.
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