Who can stop this force of nature? The Frenchman dominated Rally Ireland 2009 throughout and gave himself the best possible start to the defence of his WRC title. Loeb survived a couple of very hairy moments over the three days, both of which...
Who can stop this force of nature?
The Frenchman dominated Rally Ireland 2009 throughout and gave himself the best possible start to the defence of his WRC title.
Loeb survived a couple of very hairy moments over the three days, both of which threatened to end his involvement in the rally but he was simply better than anyone else in the field.
Loeb finished 87 seconds clear of Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo, with BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen in third. Top Irishman home was Eamonn Boland in ninth, with Group N claimed by Shaun Gallagher.
An indication of Loeb's dedication could be gleaned straight after he crossed the finishing line,when Rally Ireland asked him if he would be celebrating tonight by letting his hair down.
"No, I will be flying out tonight straight away... I have to prepare now for Norway in two weeks' time," he said.
Not exactly a party animal then!
Driving rain may have made the first two days of Rally Ireland 2009 difficult for competitors and spectators alike but the sun shone on Sunday and crowds thronged the roads of Sligo and Donegal for the final stages.
Despite the atrocious conditions, gardai said spectator numbers surpassed the 250,000 mark of 2007, with an estimated 270,000 people watching the event. A bumper crowd of 47,000 thronged Donegal Bay and town for the final stages.
Although the incessant downpour proved problematic for organisers, leading to a cancellation of scheduled night stages on Friday, the forecast for next week shows things could have been a whole lot worse.
Met Eireann, the Irish weather service, has issued a warning that next week will turn bitterly cold, with snow and ice making driving conditions hazardous. There will be no let up until next weekend at the earliest.
"Temperatures will reach only low single figures by day and there'll be sharp or severe frosts at night with icy roads," Met Eireann said. "Wintry showers of rain, hail, sleet and snow will ... spread north-westwards to all areas.They'll fall as snow in many areas with some significant accumulations likely."
"On behalf of all the staff of Rally Ireland 2009, I would like to express my deepest thanks to all everyone who made this event such a stunning success. To the 3,000 volunteers who worked long and hard in atrocious weather, the members of An Garda Siochana and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the emergency services and the fire departments, the local authorities, statutory agencies and the local communities along the routes of the 19 stages. And most particularly our sponsors DCAL and Failte Ireland.
"Each and every individual gave their time, dedication, professionalism and passion in ensuring the running of a safe and efficient rally. The seven counties of northwest Ireland again gave Rally Ireland the warmest of welcomes. My team and I at Rally Ireland will remember such hospitality
The seven counties of the northwest again gave us the warmest welcome and my team and I at Rally Ireland will always remember such hospitality fondly. It has been a privilege to work with and to meet so many dedicated people."
John Naylor - Event Director, Rally Ireland 2009