Sunday wrap: Spain triumph for Loeb

Citroen star moves closer to eighth world crown with mixed-surface win

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By www.wrc.com

23 October 2011 - 17:24
Sunday wrap: Spain triumph for (...)

Sebastien Loeb has won RallyRACC-Rally de Espana for a seventh time in his Citroen DS3 WRC following three days of dramatic action on the Costa Daurada south of Barcelona

By clinching one bonus point for clocking the third fastest time on the event-closing Power Stage, Loeb will head to Great Britain for the final round of the World Rally Championship next month with a narrow lead over Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen in his bid for an unprecedented eighth WRC drivers’ crown.

Loeb’s success in Spain, alongside co-driver Daniel Elena, earned sufficient points for Citroen to clinch the FIA manufacturers’ title for a seventh time, despite his team-mate Sebastien Ogier retiring from fifth on the penultimate stage with an engine fault.

“It was a really good rally for us coming from three bad rallies,” said Loeb, whose tally of five stage wins during the event means he has broken Markku Alen’s record of 801 fastest stage times. “We did the perfect race I would say with no mistakes. Mikko has taken a lot of points so we stay very close in the championship but the point for the Power Stage could be very important.”

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 as many points as possible for his championship aspirations, Latvala incurred a two-minute time penalty to drop behind Hirvonen to third overall.

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. Delays caused by a rear-left puncture on stage 14 and a steering problem on the next test had dropped Sordo into Ogier’s clutches. But when Ogier hit trouble on the penultimate run, Sordo was clear in fourth with team-mate Kris Meeke claiming his first finish of 2011 in fifth.

Briton Meeke drove without error and rounded out a strong showing by going fastest on the event-closing Power Stage, his first overall stage win in the WRC.

Like Sordo, 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.

Mads Ostberg overcame overheating brakes to claim sixth with Evgeny Novikov moving ahead of Henning Solberg in the closing stages to clinch seventh and his first world championship points for more than two seasons on a one-off outing in a Citroen DS3 WRC.

Dennis Kuipers was closing on Matthew Wilson on the penultimate stage when a rare driving error by the Briton enabled Dutchman Kuipers to move ahead. Kuipers bagged ninth for the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team while Wilson was left stranded by the side of the road with a broken front-left wheel on his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta.

Juho Hanninen clinched the final drivers’ championship point in 10th to mark a hugely successfully event for the Finn, who clinched the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title in his Red Bull Skoda after moving ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah when the Qatari’s Fiesta was hampered by brake troubles in the morning.

Despite a penultimate-stage puncture Patrik Flodin clinched Production Car championship spoils ahead of Michal Kosciuszko.

Ken Block retired his Monster World Rally Team Fiesta on Sunday’s opening stage, barely a handful of kilometres after Armindo Araujo had also gone off the road in his Motorsport Italia MINI.

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