Loeb and Citroën-Michelin finish the year in style
Sébastien Loeb has rounded off his 2004 season with yet another polished performance this weekend in Rally Australia. Less than a month after clinching the world title on his home round in Corsica, the Citroën- Michelin driver took his victory tally for the year to six, a performance that equals the record set by fellow-Frenchman Didier Auriol with Lancia- Michelin in 1992. Not only did Michelin runners succeed in monopolising today's podium in Perth thanks to Harri Rovanperä (2nd, Peugeot) and François Duval (3rd, Ford) but local star Chris Atkinson (5th) also collected the trophy in Group N with his Subaru-Michelin, while Ulsterman Niall McShea (9th) claimed the Production world crown driving a similar car.
Sébastien Loeb and Citroën-Michelin concluded a highly successful year of world class rallying today by winning Rally Australia, sixteenth and final round of what has been a particularly busy and exciting campaign. The French team's seventh victory of the season and the Xsara driver's sixth - which equals the record established in 1992 by Didier Auriol - will go some way to alleviating the disappointment felt when the PSA automobile group announced its intention a little over a week ago to put a halt to the WRC programmes of both Citroën and Peugeot from the end of next year.
Loeb's runaway win in the southern hemisphere was arguably his easiest of the season since the vast majority of favourites were eliminated in one way or another very early in the weekend. His own team-mate Carlos Sainz withdrew from what was scheduled to be the final outing of his glittering career before retirement after sustaining neck injuries in an accident during pre-start reconnaissance, while Markko Märtin (Ford-Michelin) failed to start the first full day of competition on Friday due to an engine problem and last year's winner Petter Solberg (Subaru) crashed out on Stage 4.
Three-times Rally Australia winner Marcus Grönholm ultimately emerged as the man to beat during the initial part of the rally, closely tailed by Loeb. However, just as it seemed as though the anticipated clash between these two champions would more than make up for the early cascade of retirements, the Peugeot-Michelin driver was in turn sidelined when he left the road on the opening test of Saturday morning.
The Finn's misfortune left Loeb alone in front with a more than comfortable cushion ahead of Harri Rovanperä (Peugeot-Michelin) and François Duval (Ford-Michelin) who went on to finish in that order, albeit respectively 1m 55s and 3m 40s behind the winner!
The match proved significantly fiercer in the Group N 'Production' category in which the promising local youngster Chris Atkinson (5th, Subaru) topped another Michelin one-two ahead of Spanish Mitsubishi driver Xavier Pons (6th). Meanwhile, 9th place overall and 5th in Group N was sufficient for Ulsterman Niall McShea to secure the Production World Championship with his Subaru-Michelin.
A Successful Conclusion To A Highly Successful 2004 Campaign For Michelin
Congratulations and thank you. They would no doubt have preferred to have won in a true fight, but hats off to Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and Citroën for going all the way to the finish to win Rally Australia, the perfect conclusion to a highly successful season that saw them clinch the Drivers' and Manufacturers' in Corsica with Michelin with two rounds remaining.
A huge thank you also to everyone involved in the 2004 World Rally Championship (partners, teams, drivers, organisers.), as well as to all of you who have followed the year's drama and excitement via Michelin Competition's press network. Whether you attended the events or not, we sincerely hope you found our information both useful and informative.
Michelin runners steal the show in Group N. 'Production' class Michelin runners were again on form this weekend in Australia. The category was won outright by the Michelin-shod Subaru of local star Chris Atkinson with Spaniard Xavier Pons (Mitsubishi) ensuring a one-two finish for the firm.
The 2004 Production World Rally Championship title goes to Ulster's Niall McShea. Congratulations to the Subaru-Michelin driver who finished 5th in Group N in Perth.
"Niall's title speaks a great deal for the fantastic performance of Michelin's commercially available rally tyres that were used by our teams for the majority of the championship," says Michelin Competition's Rallies Manager Aimé Chatard. "In Australia, as in Corsica, our top runners benefited from evolution tyres and our one-two result this weekend is a very encouraging sign for our bid to win the Production World Rally Championship again in 2005."
Stats update. To complete Michelin's provisional 2004 WRC statistics communicated prior to Rally Australia: the French tyres ultimately won 11 rounds from 16, secured 9 all-Michelin podiums and took the firm's total score of WRC wins to 213! Citroën won seven rounds in total with Michelin in 2004 and Loeb six.
Business as usual. The end of one season marks the countdown to the next. As usual, the year's traditional curtain-raiser, January's Monte Carlo Rally, will be upon us before we know it and Michelin begins its tyre testing for this demanding classic in just two weeks time!