Sebastien Loeb has notched his fourth consecutive World Rally Championship victory in 2006. The defending (twice) title holder was without a factory ride when Citroen pulled out of WRC competition. A change for 2007 will see the French team back...
Sebastien Loeb has notched his fourth consecutive World Rally Championship victory in 2006. The defending (twice) title holder was without a factory ride when Citroen pulled out of WRC competition. A change for 2007 will see the French team back with a new Xsara but for now Loeb's drivers for the new Kronos Racing privateer team.
"Everything about this rally is breathtaking," commented Loeb. "The scenery, the high-speed water splashes and above all the fantastic welcome we get from the Argentine fans, who give us the best reception in the world. My Citroen was as reliable, fast and consistent as usual. That was just as well, because this rally was particularly difficult this year mostly down to the weather."
And yet... the Frenchman appears unstoppable on gravel or asphalt as he extended his points lead after the fifth round: Rally Argentina, his and Daniel Elena second consecutive win at the venue and 24 WRC career victories. Loeb has now tied Tommi Makinen. With two more wins, he will equal the all-time record of 26 held by Carlos Sainz.
"We had a good fight with Marcus [Gronholm] on the first day and that continued with Petter [Solberg] yesterday. For all those reasons, winning here is a special pleasure for me," said the winner. "As well as that, myself and Daniel extend our lead in the drivers championship while Kronos does the same in the constructors standings. As I still think we'll have a tight battle on our hands this year, that's no bad thing... "
With the win today, Elena now ties the all-time co-driver record with Luis Moya: "It's fantastic! "But the party only really starts if I manage to beat him..."
Marcus Gronholm who won the frist two rally events of the season, ended up with transmission hiccups in his Ford factory Focus on the opening leg after scoring two special stage wins as the early leader. He returned with the SupeRally rule by taking a 15-minute penalty for Saturday's leg and climbed his way back into the top ten with four stage wins. On today's final four stages, Gronholm held his ground and was fastest on the penultimate stage to end up in the final points paying position: 10th!
"The time loss on Friday was a shame and left us struggling for a result," admitted the Finn. "Tenth gave the team a point but it obviously wasn't what I wanted and I'm disappointed. I had hoped for more. At least I was able to come back and set several fastest times over the second and third legs and show again that the car has plenty of pace. The rally wasn't hard on tyres, despite the long sections with no opportunity to fit new rubber, and our engineers and those from BFGoodrich made some good choices. The stage in the soccer stadium was a spectacular show. As a driver, it's great to perform in front of so many people in such a great atmosphere."
The rallyist who, even though finishing second today, that was pleased with his and the Subaru team's performance was Petter Solberg who continues to look for his first overall win this season. With six events down, Solberg still has ten chances before the season ends. In Argentina, Solberg garnered much needed points as he chases his second crown.
"I wanted to win here but I think to finish second is still very good, we can't complain because things went almost according to the plan. I tried everything and we would have had a very good chance of winning this rally if it wasn't for the problems we had, but underneath it all I'm feeling much more positive," the Norwegian commented. "The car is getting there now, we're back fighting for the lead and I can go for an attack - it's been a long time since I felt like this. I'm looking forward to the next rally!"
The battle for third on the final day was between Gigi Galli and Manfred Stohl. Galli just bested Stohl by 15.7-seconds for the final podium step after three days of heated battle between the two Peugeot drivers.