Historic win for Loeb and CitroÃ«n In Sweden today, at the end of the 53rd edition of the Swedish Rally, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Xsara WRC sealed an important chapter in the history of rallying. Winning an event that ...
Historic win for Loeb and Citroën
In Sweden today, at the end of the 53rd edition of the Swedish Rally, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Xsara WRC sealed an important chapter in the history of rallying. Winning an event that had, for over half a century, been the exclusive preserve of Nordic drivers, Sebastien and Daniel put in a truly amazing performance. Claiming fifth place, Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti transformed this victory into an excellent team operation, and have allowed Citroën to take the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Before the start, Sebastien had said : "I am very confident as far as the potential of the car is concerned, and I am impatient to evaluate our level of performance compared to that of our rivals." The Citroën driver had added : "I hope to be able to fight in the leading group. If I can, anything is possible." In the very precarious conditions during the first leg, Seb, who was starting first on the road, was quickly reassured. With a competitive Xsara, and no fresh snow to slow him down, he was in a promising second place by Friday evening. With the pressure growing throughout the second leg, Seb's fastest time during SS9 put him out of the reach of Marcus Gronholm and closer to the leader, Markko Martin. His excellent balance and his ability to avoid making mistakes did the rest. Leading after SS11, the French driver strengthened his position with two fastest stage times. His final task was to control the rally during the third leg, which he managed with his usual composure. "I have now claimed my first non-tarmac victory, something I was very keen to do, I have become the first non-Nordic driver to win the Swedish Rally, I have increased my lead in the Drivers Championship, and Citroën has taken the lead in the Manufacturer's. It's hard to dream of a better result."
Carlos Sainz loves the Swedish Rally. But is the feeling mutual? Finishing second in the rally for four consecutive years, between 1996 and 1999, the Madrid - based driver dreamt of climbing up to the highest step of the podium, and his fastest time in SS2 kept the dream alive. Whilst lying in third place, SS8 and SS9 removed all hopes of a win. On two separate occasions, the Xsara's nose hit the snow banks, blocking the air intake and causing overheating engine. Living up to his reputation as a fighter, the Spaniard managed to climb back up the field, and he was fighting for fourth place when an overheating engine, probably consequent to this of the day before on SS18, forced him to slow the pace. "That's racing! I really enjoyed my fight with young Janne Tuohino, and I have claimed a few useful points. I would most particularly like to congratulate Sebastien on his amazing performance. Having been the first 'southerner' to win in Finland and in Great Britain, I know how it feels to break a stronghold. This evening, I think that we are just at the beginning of Seb's big year!"
At the service park, before returning to Karlstad, Guy Frequelin had a lump in his throat : "I must admit that I am overcome, as we all are, by the magic, by the emotion of this fantastic moment. The team gave Sebastien a perfect Xsara, his talent converted their work into an immense joy for Citroën. We are now in a fine position in both Championships. We could not have hoped for better encouragement in order to prepare for the next event."
Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, Kinetic, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are the partners of the Citroën-Total team in the World Rally Championship.