In a remarkable feat of supremacy and consistency, Sébastien Loeb set another record by winning every stage of the event to claim his first victory on the island. The Frenchman had a winning margin of one minute 51.7 seconds over Ford's Toni Gardemeister, the Finn equaling his best results of the season. Petter Solberg finished third with Subaru team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin equaling his best FIA WRC event result, in fourth. Roman Kresta gave Ford a double-points haul with fifth position while ©koda finished sixth with Alexandre Bengué in the Fabia WRC. François Duval, who had held second, retired after losing a wheel this morning.
Temperatures ranged between 15°C in the early morning and 24°C by the final stage. Early morning mist was present in the first test, however no rain fell during the day.
It's done: for the third time in three years since it began competing full-time in the WRC, Citroën has won the FIA Manufacturers' world title*. This success follows last Wednesday's announcement that the French firm will return to the World Championship in 2007 and polishes off a weekend that the Versailles-Satory team is unlikely to forget for a long, long time to come. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and François Duval/Sven Smeets scored a second one-two finish after their similar result in last August's Deutschland Rally to add a fitting touch of panache to the occasion. By taking his personal record to 20 WRC wins, Sébastien, who claimed his and Daniel's second Drivers' crown in Japan, joins Didier Auriol as the fifth most successful driver in WRC history. He also extends his own record to ten wins in a single season and to twelve consecutive podium finishes. Concerning the number of different rallies won (13), Seb and Daniel join another top name from the past, Carlos Sainz, who spent all this weekend with the Citroën team.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I always wanted to win here one day," admits Seb. "It's great to have succeeded. But more important still for me is the fact that Citroën not only finished 1st and 2nd thanks to François, but also came close to monopolising the podium with the privately-run Xsara of Xevi Pons! At the same time, in addition to wrapping up the Manufacturers' title today, Citroën has also sewn up the JWRC thanks to Dani Sordo and his C2 Super 1600. It's been a dream weekend, the end result of the passion and the work put in by everyone in the team. This tenth win is a symbol of our perfect season and I would like to dedicate it to the them."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: Apologies
Claude Satinet: "One of the objectives this year was to hold on to the Manufacturers' title," says Claude Satinet, the Managing Director of Automobiles Citroën. "For us, the Manufacturers' title complements the Drivers' crown because it calls for the performance and reliability of two cars, and two crews. It places the spotlight even more clearly on the ability of a make and on the skill and motivation of its technical staff."
Guy Fréquelin: "Now that Citroën has achieved its goal, Guy Fréquelin can take time to savour and re-live the past season. "The year got off to a difficult start. After Sweden and Mexico, Claude Satinet and I said something along the lines of 'every year is different'. I believe it's a fitting tribute to the team that not only was this season different to the others but it also turned out to be even better. Once again, I want to say how proud I am of them and I want to thank all those who brought their special talent to the table; Sébastien, François, Daniel, Stéphane and then Sven all contributed in their own way to Citroën's third title. Nor do I want to forget of course Carlos and Marc who helped us out in the difficult moments I was referring to. And I must thank Michelin too. Their tyres brought out the very best in the Xsara WRC. Last but not least, I am very pleased with the results obtained by those privateers who placed their confidence in us. Xevi Pons and his Xsara finished just off the podium today, while Dani Sordo is the 2005 Junior World Champion with his C2 Super 1600. This is all so motivating as we prepare to wrap up the season in Australia and prepare our comeback."
The Subaru World Rally Team overcame the disappointment of two Leg one accidents to take some positives away from the 41st Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson, on just his third tarmac event, set top ten times on all three of Leg three's special stages and achieved his best-ever finish on a sealed surface with 9th overall. After Leg one accident damage ruined any hope of a podium for Petter Solberg, he worked hard on his car's set-up on Legs two and three and was rewarded with a stage win and two crucial manufacturer points. The team now goes to Australia and the final event of 2005 determined to secure second in the drivers' and third in the manufacturers' championship.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: Today was getting better! We've been fine-tuning the setup on dampers and diff settings, and I think that being able to run these last two days and spend time testing the car in rally conditions, will be very useful for the event here next March. Of course it was disappointing not to be fighting for a podium after the accident on Friday, but that's how it is sometimes. At least we've got two manufacturer points and a lot of useful data to take away. In Australia you will see a big fight as it is always very close and I can't wait to get down there and into it!
Stephan Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: Retired
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: This rally has been good for us. It's just our third asphalt rally and we're achieving the pace targets that we agreed before the event. We've had no problems at all and have learnt a lot. I think that the set-up and driving style are coming together and I've been able to lift my speed all the time. From here we're off to my home rally in Australia and after getting such a good result last year I'm looking forward to doing even better this year, as it will be my first time in a World Rally Car there. The event really suits my style and I'm hoping for a good bit of home support to give us a further boost!
The 'old shape' Ford Focus RS World Rally Car ended its career as a works car with a double points haul on Spain's Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada today. BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Roman Kresta and Jan Tománek and team-mates Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen both claimed points on this 15th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship to strengthen Ford's hold on third in the manufacturers' standings. Private entrants Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen brought more joy to the Focus' farewell by finishing third in a 2003-specification car after a thrilling final stage showdown with fellow private entrant Xavi Pons. The Finns came from behind to snatch a podium position in the final 5km section of the 358.75km, three-day asphalt event in the mountains south of Barcelona. Another privately-entered Focus RS, driven by Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr, finished seventh. Twenty-nine-year-old Kresta was fifth, matching his career-best result set in Corsica just seven days earlier. Gardemeister was 14th after a troubled rally in which he twice went off the road. The points double was a fitting farewell to the current specification Focus RS WRC. An all-new Focus RS rally car, based on the Focus ST road car, will make its first public appearance on the final round of the championship in Australia next month.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "I missed a pace note and slid into a ditch," he explained. "It's a problem for me when I'm not driving at 100 per cent because it affects my concentration. I wasn't concentrating fully and braked 10 metres too late for a corner and I was off the road. It was good to score a point for Ford but it was a disappointing weekend for me personally. It looked good until yesterday and without the brake problem and a lack of concentration, it could have been a podium result."
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: It was another good result, especially considering that a lot of people drove really well here. I made a few mistakes but that's part of the sport. Tyre selection was tough but the team and Michelin gave us good advice and we made some good decisions. Today went very well, especially the opening stage where I had a great feeling with the Focus and set second fastest time. The time gaps were still quite close so I couldn't relax too much."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I've finally scored my first podium and I can't believe it was on asphalt and not gravel," said Hirvonen. "It was my first asphalt rally for a year and it proved I can be quick on both surfaces. We had great help from Michelin with the tyres. When I saw Pons mess up his start on the final stage I decided to really attack and try to make my dreams come true. It was a great battle and I can't believe I had such a good weekend considering how long it is since I drove on this surface."
Nicolas Bernardi and Jean Marc Fortin have driven faultlessly for three days in order to bring their Peugeot 307 WRC home in sixth place on the Catalunya Rally. Their well-deserved result earns Peugeot Sport five points in the manufacturers championship. The third and final leg of the all-asphalt Catalunya Rally was made up of three special stages totalling 68 kilometres. Nicolas Bernardi found himself with big gaps to the drivers in front and behind, so he chose not to take any risks and get his car safely to the finish.
Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: Retired
Nicolas Bernardi/Jean Marc Fortin: I have the experience of two good rallies behind me, and I am very pleased with the results we have achieved. I started off carefully in Corsica, as unlike the other drivers I did not know my car intimately. I worked very well with my engineer Eric Mommet and the entire team has supported me brilliantly. >From that Saturday of Corsica onwards, I was in the rhythm. I feel very proud that I was able to fight with and occasionally set times that were comparable with those of such an established star like Marcus Gronholm. Tomorrow I will get back behind the wheel of my Peugeot 206 WRC in order to get ready for the next round of the French Championship, which I hope to win this year.
The Catalunya Rally saw ©koda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers Jan Kopecký and Armin Schwarz bring the Fabia WRC 05 home in points scoring positions. For Jan it was the first WRC drivers point of his career but as he was not registered for manufacturers' points it was only Armin who added to the team's 2005 total. Alex Bengue was denied a likely points finish for both drivers and manufacturers by a rare gearbox failure during yesterday's second leg. On today's three stages, Jan elected for a cautious approach to ensure that he made the finish but he again showed his increasing confidence with sixth fastest time on the second stage to consolidate eighth place from a charging Chris Atkinson and to finish three positions ahead of his team mate.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: The first stage today was incredible. There was really thick fog that seemed to come over the stage like a curtain. One minute it was there and the next it was completely gone. You never knew what was around the next corner!
Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: Retired
Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovánek: This morning was not a time to take unnecessary risks. I had proved that I had the speed when the conditions were right but there was so little visibility at times that I decided that eighth place was better than going off the road trying to catch Antony Warmbold."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore finished the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, the 14th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in ninth position. Team-mates Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietiläinen were 10th, claiming the final Manufacturer's Championship point, while Gilles and Hervé Panizzi failed to re-start this morning following what is now confirmed as a problem with the engine ECU.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "It's disappointing that the car hasn't worked as we thought this weekend", said Harri. "It's not what we expected and all we can say really is that we finished. On the positive side I am happy with the evolution of Pirelli's dry weather tire; that is good news for the future and we are certainly closer to the competition now".
Gigi Galli/Guido d'Amore: "It's been a very difficult weekend", said Gigi at the finish. "The thing I am the most sorry about is that every day I have not been able to do what I like with the car; this is the first time with the Lancer I have felt like that. Every other rally I have been able to make something good, even if it was only for one stage. That is frustrating, but I am confident things will be better in Spain".
Next Event - Rally Australia
After two European events the WRC once more makes its way east. Australia concludes the 2005 World Rally Championship, with three days of flat-out gravel action on the roads around Perth. The technical nature of the western Australian forest stages invariably punish cars and drivers hard for any the smallest of mistakes. While the weather is normally hot, rain showers are not unheard of - another twist to what is always an intriguing and popular event.