Loeb and Citroen stretch the gap in Bulgaria Sebastien Loeb's championship lead is now up to 51 points over Sebastien Ogier, after the six-time World Champion cruised to victory with what he called "a Sunday drive" on the final day of Rally ...
Loeb and Citroen stretch the gap in Bulgaria
Sebastien Loeb's championship lead is now up to 51 points over Sebastien Ogier, after the six-time World Champion cruised to victory with what he called "a Sunday drive" on the final day of Rally Bulgaria.
Citroen now has a 47-point lead over Ford in the manufacturers' standings with six rounds remaining.
The final day consisted of just four stages and 94 competitive kilometres, under the hottest conditions seen yet on the rally.
Loeb started the day with a 40-second lead and then controlled his pace to the finish, ending the rally with a 29.5 second advantage over his team-mate Dani Sordo.
The Spaniard, however, had a fight on his hands as Petter Solberg's private Citroen was just five seconds behind him at the start of the day. Solberg and his new co-driver Chris Patterson were determined to overhaul the Spaniard, but in the end they just missed out on the runner-up spot.
Nonetheless, the Norwegian was extremely happy with a podium. "When we started the rally, both myself and Chris were quite nervous," he said. "But I have to say he did an excellent job."
Sebastien Ogier was a lonely fourth, while the factory Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti had resigned themselves to fifth and sixth almost from the first day.
"We have to keep working hard to improve," concluded Hirvonen. "We just tested a few things for future rallies today. I think we learned something that will help on the remaining asphalt rallies."
Stobart-Ford's new recruit P-G Andersson was a trouble-free seventh, having kept out of trouble as asked, while former Grand Prix champion Kimi Raikkonen also had an eye on the future. The Finn just missed out on finishing in the top 10 after getting stuck on a bank for more than half a minute on the final stage of the rally.
J-WRC: Neuville lands maiden Junior championship win
Thierry Neuville put the disappointment of retiring on the opening two rounds of the Junior World Rally Championship behind him by triumphing on round three of the young driver series in Bulgaria.
Neuville moved in front on Saturday's opening stage and pulled clear when overnight leader Mathieu Arzeno suffered a puncture and then damaged his rear suspension in a crash on stage eight.
With a lead of 51 seconds heading into the final day of the event, Neuville just had to keep out of trouble on the final four stages to claim his maiden win in the class.
"It's a fantastic result and I'm very, very happy," said the 22-year-old, who drove an Automeca Solutions-run Citroen C2 Super 1600.
"It's taken a long time to get our first victory. Each race so far we were in first position but we retired, one time mechanical and one time through me making a mistake. Now we are really happy to be at the finish because it was difficult to stay concentrated with such a big lead. It's good for me, the team and for my co-driver Nicolas Klinger because we came here for the victory and we pushed very hard."
Little troubled Neuville on the final day of the rally, although he bemoaned having a poor set of pacenotes for the opening stage and a loss of brakes on the second stage, which he said he would work to rectify before the next round in Germany in August.
Hans Weijs took second in another C2 S1600 after overcoming a troubled start to day two when co-driver Bjorn Degandt lost his voice and was unable to read his pacenotes.
"You always want to be in first place but this result is not bad for the championship because we now have some points," said Weijs. "The car was quite okay today but it was quite a big gap to Thierry so there was not much I could really do but try to finish."
Local hero Todor Slavov overcame myriad mechanical problems to claim third in his Renault Clio R3 after winning two of Sunday's four stages with Alessandro Broccoli, Karl Kruda and Egoi Valdes Lopes completing the top six.
Kevin Abbring restarted on Sunday under SupeRally regulations following alternator failure at the start of Saturday's final stage. He battled back to claim seventh, which puts him six points clear of Aaron Burkart at the top of the title standings.
Abbring said the weight and braking prowess of his Renault Clio R3 (it is 105 kilograms heavier than a Super 1600 car and uses smaller brakes) ruled out a bid for victory on the high-speed and undulating Bulgarian stages.
Arzeno also used SupeRally to complete the rally route in eighth overall but there was to be no finish for Briton Harry Hunt, who retired his Ford Fiesta on Sunday's second stage.
Yeray Lemes completed Saturday's stages in third overall but was excluded for working on his Renault Clio's broken driveshaft in a time control.