News from Final Leg
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) created rallying history by setting fastest time on all 12 speed tests en route to his ninth win of the season. No driver has ever claimed a clean sweep on a world rally before. Petter Solberg (Subaru) secured third behind Gardemeister (Ford) despite a late scare. He had a gear selection problem on the penultimate stage and then struggled to move the car off the line at the start of the final test. Team-mate Sarrazin took fourth while sixth for Alex Bengue (Skoda) was his best result and the best finish of the year for the Czech team. Nicolas Bernardi (Peugeot) claimed the final drivers' point on his debut for the French team while 10th for Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) was enough for the final manufacturers' point after a troubled rally.
In a year that has seen the Citroen team establish a long list of new WRC records, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Xsara WRC today picked up an emphatic, memorable win over the challenging mountain roads of Corsica, winning every single stage in the process for the first time in world class rallying's history.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Everyone was expecting me to win in Corsica, so I had to do something a little different. I really wanted to win here, not only because this is my home rally but also because I love the Corsican stages. I admit that at the beginning of the season the two objectives I set myself were to win in Finland and Corsica. Marcus [Gronholm] proved the man to beat in Finland, but like him I am very pleased to have won my home round, with a little touch of panache."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: Retired (Accident)
The Subaru World Rally Team recorded a strong final result at the Tour de Corse with Petter Solberg on the podium in third and Stephane Sarrazin fourth.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I'm pleased, it was a good rally and we had some good fun out there, let me tell you. The car is going very well on this surface now, of course it's not a win yet, but it's a positive result for Subaru and Pirelli, we've made a real step in the right direction and I think it looks good for Catalunya."
Stephan Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "I'm happy with fourth place here, it's a good result for me and the team too. It will be interesting to see how we get on in Catalunya because we have seen this weekend how much improved the car is on asphalt. I'd like to think that we can aim for a higher placed finish next week - I hope I can improve on the fourth place I got there last year."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's a shame we weren't able to complete the stages today, but looking at the bigger picture this has been a very useful rally for Glenn and I. We've learned heaps and basically improved our pace on every stage. This is only the second tarmac rally of my career and of course it's pretty tough going up against drivers with so much more experience. The past couple of days gave us a good opportunity to test some different set-ups and finding the limit, like we did today, is part of that process. I'm satisfied that the lessons we have learned will help us significantly both next week and in the future."
Ford World Rally Team claimed its best result of the season in Corsica today to celebrate the centenary appearance of the Ford Focus World Rally Car. Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen finished second on the Rallye de France Tour de Corse in a Focus RS WRC, securing the 60th podium finish for the car on its 100th start in the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek were fifth in another Focus RS to emphasise Ford's best performance of 2005.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "It means a lot to me to be second behind a driver who was fastest on every stage. It's my best asphalt performance. I felt sure I could take a good result because I knew the Focus RS is a great car on asphalt and I quickly realised that if I didn't make any mistakes, then everything would be fine. The car, Jakke, and I worked well together all weekend.
Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "I feel very proud this afternoon. Proud for Ford, proud for my country and proud for myself. The team sent me Bengue's split times all day and I was able to pace myself accordingly so as not to take unnecessary risks. I was worried before the start on Thursday evening. I knew this would be a difficult event because I had little experience of the roads. But things went a lot better than I expected. On Friday I drove carefully but it was probably worth it because it settled my nerves."
Nicolas Bernardi deserves more than his eventual eighth place on the Rally de France-Tour de Corse, after a final leg in which he was twice in the top three stage times. After playing himself in over the opening day, Nicolas showed himself to be entirely worthy of the trust that team principal Jean-Pierre Nicolas had placed in him. Now the young Frenchman is eagerly looking forward to the start of the Catalunya Rally in a few days time.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: Retired
Nicolas Bernardi/Jean Marc Fortin: "I deliberately started off the rally quite sensibly, because psychologically it was difficult for me to get over the fear of being in one of the best cars and not being able to make the most of it. The road conditions were very tricky on the opening day, with a lot of loose gravel on the stages. But after working closely with my engineers I was much more at ease over the following two days, and I am delighted with the pace that we were able to demonstrate. I cannot wait to get to Catalunya next week, where I can show what I am capable of on stages that nobody has ever driven before."
Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team driver Alex Bengue equalled the best ever finish for the Skoda Fabia WRC 05 and set a career best result when he finished a challenging sixth place in Corsica. Jan Kopecký was 12th on his first visit to the twisting asphalt roads of the Mediterranean island while Armin Schwarz withdrew from the rally after yesterday's opening stage.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: Retired
Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: "This was a fantastic result for me and for the team. I'm really pleased with how the car performed and how we were able to fight with Xavi and Roman today. I'm very happy to have given the team its best result of the season on such a difficult rally."
Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovanek: "I came here to learn and to make the finish so I am happy to have achieved both those things and am now looking forward to Catalunya."
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 Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen were 10th, claiming the final Manufacturer's Championship point, while Gilles and Herve 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. 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."
Gilles Panizzi/Herve Panizzi: Retired (Engine)