Frenchman Sebastien Loeb took the Swedish Rally today to score back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship victories in the first two events of the year. The Citroen driver also won the first round in Monte Carlo, and remains on top of the drivers'...
Frenchman Sebastien Loeb took the Swedish Rally today to score back-to-back FIA World Rally Championship victories in the first two events of the year. The Citroen driver also won the first round in Monte Carlo, and remains on top of the drivers' standings as he became the first non-Nordic driver to win the icy, snowy, wintry, long, difficult and challenging Swedish Rally.
Gronholm spun early in the 14.17km Sagen SS14, losing nearly 30 seconds to Loeb. The Peugeot had light damage compared to the off on day two that Gronholm suffered. Loeb had an edge over one minute when the stage was completed, giving him a comfortable lead for the remainder of the day.
"After Marcus (Gronholm) spun, we had a much more comfortable lead," reflected the leader Loeb on the opening stage. "We drove much more carefully for the rest of the day."
Petter Solberg saw the door open as Gronholm slipped into the clutches of the Subaru driver. "I'll try to keep Petter (Solberg) behind," expressed Gronholm at the service area after SS14. "That's the only thing to do."
And that he did, with a fastest time on SS16, his sixth stage win in the rally, increasing his edge on Solberg to 19 seconds. The veteran driver then sealed his second place finish with the win on 23.35km Rammen 2 SS18, the penultimate stage. Gronholm topped off the event with fastest time on the final stage, proving why he has won this event three times in the past.
Solberg, the 2003 WRC champion, clinched the third podium spot on day two and held off the challenge from Janne Tuohino on today's final leg. The veteran Subaru driver is hoping to score points consistently in the early going this year to defend his title.
"I'm really happy with the result and delighted with two fastest times," Tuohino summed up his rally, "But I'm still a little unhappy to have dropped time at the end of the second day otherwise I may have finished third."
Tuohino's best finish in a World Rally event to date had been seventh, at his home rally in Finland last year, where he had made his WRC debut in 1996. The 2001 Group A Finnish Champion proved he likes the snow with his remarkable run this weekend. Tuohino did not rest on others problems or on consistency, he went after the top five from day one. Today he stunned the rally world with the fastest time on the 23.35km SS15.
After taking back the fourth overall position from Sainz, the hot battle between him and the wily Spanish veteran was heated up as the two tied for the 14.17km SS17 win.
Citroen's Sainz ended the Swedish Rally in the fifth position as he limped the ill Citroen home on the final stage, the Xsara suffeering from a major misfire. Sainz won the opening stage this morning.
Peugeot privateer and brother to Petter, Henning Solberg clinched sixth whilst early rally leader, Markko Martin pushed his Ford into the seventh overall position. The final point position was taken by Daniel Carlsson who placed his Peugeot 206 second fastest on the final stage (tied with Loeb) to finish eighth today.
Loeb kept the overall point standings and Citroen now leads the manufacturers' standings by a mere two points over Ford.