Victory for Loeb, Elena and Citroen 'down under' Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena came through this weekend's incredibly thrilling Rally Australia to notch up the 53rd world class win of their career. The result also takes the Citroen C4 WRC pair...
Victory for Loeb, Elena and Citroen 'down under'
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena came through this weekend's incredibly thrilling Rally Australia to notch up the 53rd world class win of their career. The result also takes the Citroen C4 WRC pair to within a single point of the provisional lead in the 2009 Drivers' World Championship standings. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti's superb third place has helped Citroen extend its advantage at the top of the Manufacturers' points table.
With just one tenth of a second covering Dani Sordo, Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen going into the final day of the 2009 Rally Australia, Sunday's action was always going to be exceptionally close. The last leg was also the longest of the weekend in terms of competitive action, with a programme of two loops of five stages in the Kyogle region, split by a 15-minute remote service break.
Sebastien Loeb eased back ahead thanks to his fastest time on the day's opening test (SS26). Mikko Hirvonen responded with the best performance on SS28, but that didn't prevent the four-time World Champion from gradually extending his lead throughout the morning. By the time crews checked into the short service halt in Kyogle, the cushion was up to 11 seconds: "The gap isn't big enough yet for me to be able to lift. Despite the fact that he is running first on the road, Mikko is still going extremely quickly, and I don't think he has any intention of throwing in the towel. We went well this morning and my C4 WRC feels nicely balanced on these stages. The situation is looking promising for us, but I don't intend to take my eye off the ball."
A fastest time for Dani Sordo on SS27 provided further evidence of the Spaniard's speed in Australia, and he completed the first loop fighting for second spot, just 3.8 seconds adrift of Hirvonen: "I dropped a little time by pushing too hard, which led to a tendency for my car to oversteer. Our aim is to try to catch Mikko, but clawing back four seconds this afternoon won't be easy. He is going very well and I mustn't forget the prospect of a good Manufacturers' points haul for Citroen."
The afternoon's run saw Sebastien Loeb maintain the same sort of pace to bag a further two fastest times, and it was only on the final stage which was broadcast live on TV that he was truly able to control from in front. The Frenchman was clearly delighted with his performance at the finish: "Winning is always nice, but today's victory has a special taste to it because it's our first since last April! This rally turned out to be long and tough. The variety of the stages and the speed of our rivals kept us on our toes from start to finish. This result is particularly important in terms of the championship. It has brought us back to within just one point of Mikko and we will be looking to regain the lead in Spain."
A further fastest time on SS32 enabled Dani Sordo to figure briefly in second place before eventually reaching the finish in third spot: "Mikko was quite simply faster than me today. That said, I am absolutely thrilled to have finished on the podium here in Australia. I was in the thick of the scrap for first place from the beginning of Day 1 all the way to the end, and the Manufacturers' points we've scored mean that Citroen could potentially wrap up the title in Spain."