Nancy Knapp Schilke, WRC Correspondent
In a dominating performance, Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena took the lead in this year’s Rallye Deutschland on the first leg, and when their main rival for the victory hit a rock yesterday, the Frenchmen could have taken it easy on today’s FIA World Rally Championship’s final leg in Germany since they had a very nice cushion over the rest of competition. However they did not take it easy.
“These three days have gone very well, but the conditions were really not very easy. We were the quickest, but we were also the most consistent. Some competitors were capable of rivalling us in terms of out-and-out performance, but they were caught out by the many pitfalls of the route,” admitted Loeb.
The eight times champions for the Citroen works team earned two of the three final stage wins, including the Power Stage that added three bonus points to their commanding lead in the 2012 title fight. Loeb and Elena took their ninth win in Germany, and even the unpredictable weather did not slow them down. This morning rain again appeared on the horizon, and the French ace selected the Michelin soft tyres as they aimed for their fifth consecutive victory of the season.
Loeb commented: “Once I had built up a good lead, I just had to avoid making any mistakes. As each rally goes by, we are getting closer to our goal of a ninth title. With a fifty-four point lead and four races left, things are looking good...”
The Citroen team ended on a high note with both DS3s. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen had their own set of problems, but they took the final podium position, and added two bonus points on the final Power Stage.
“Before the start, I said that I would be happy to finish on the podium. I have to be pleased therefore to finish third, although the weekend was complicated for me. This rally was really difficult from start to finish, with very dirty roads. This is not the kind of conditions that I particularly like, but that’s rallying,” admitted Hirvonen.
In their Citroen DS3, Loeb and Elena were two minutes ahead of Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn and his co-driver Miikka Anttila mounted a comeback after a rough opening day to place second. “It feels great to finish on the podium on asphalt and I’ll take great confidence from my best result on this surface,” said Latvala.
The Finn added, “The distance between ourselves and the winner was two minutes so we need to remain realistic and understand that there is still work to do. But I feel sure that we will be able to challenge for victory again on the remaining two asphalt rounds.”
Unfortunately, their Ford factory teammates, Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson ended 11th after the damage to their Fiesta RS on Saturday. The Norwegian used the Rally 2 rule to gain some ground and had hoped to take bonus points in the final Power Stage held on the streets of Trier. Both Ford works drivers will leave Germany without any extra bonus points. They now will concentrate on the next two WRC events that will be on gravel.
“It would have been fantastic for the team to have finished second and third, but the car snapped away and once I hit the rock, it was all over. Until then my rally went extremely well. The testing and hard work that we put in improved the car on this surface and I was delighted with the pace,” said the Norwegian.
M-Sport Ford’s Adapta team of Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson took fourth in their Fiesta RS. “I enjoy Tarmac a lot; it is just that some events are a little more difficult than others. But I have learnt a lot more about Germany now and you can enjoy it if the rhythm is there. I think the last two days have been a lot more fun and this rally will certainly have helped towards France and Spain – hopefully I will be even more of a ‘Tarmac person’ then!”