Loeb, Elena and Citroen World Champions* It was the ideal scenario but it had to be made come true. When Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena stopped their Citroen C4 WRC in front of the Haguenau town hall they had just scored their sixtieth victory...
Loeb, Elena and Citroen World Champions*
It was the ideal scenario but it had to be made come true. When Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena stopped their Citroen C4 WRC in front of the Haguenau town hall they had just scored their sixtieth victory in the WRC, and bagged their seventh consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title. In addition to a performance, unique in the annals of motor sport, Loeb had made the hearts of over 300000 spectators who were all rooting for the local lad jump for joy. Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo's second place helped the Citroen Total World Rally Team to its sixth Manufacturers' World Championship title.
After two long legs, the third day of Rally France took the crews to the north of Strasbourg. The final leg on which there were no service halts, consisted of two passages through the stage in the Bitche military camp followed by two passages through the stage in Haguenau, the town in which Loeb grew up. The future seven-time World Rally Champion was deeply moved by the ever-increasing popular enthusiasm on the liaison stage bringing him from Strasbourg to Haguenau to race in the first city stage. "There were people everywhere on the road, and at the stage. It was rather moving."
Dani Sordo's day got off to an equally emotional start - but not for the same reasons! "That little stage wasn't easy, all the more so as I hadn't taken very good notes. We also ran into a little hitch when a water hose fastener came off. We were able to repair it.
Sordo reboosted his confidence by setting the fastest time in the Camp de Bitche stage in front of Loeb: "We didn't have any split times so it was difficult to know if we had the right pace. I was almost surprised to set the quickest time." Loeb admitted that he nursed his lead: "Without the splits we were racing blind, but I didn't take the slightest risk in the very quick sections."
After an interminable regrouping halt in Bitche, the organisers decided to cancel the second passage through the military camp stage and the rally ended in the streets of Haguenau. After crossing the finishing line Loeb gave full vent to his joy by climbing up onto the roof of his C4 WRC: "My first world title will always remain the best for me, but this one will have a special place in my heart. We won it after a very difficult race. It's quite simply mind blowing to cross the finishing line in my home town, and it's incredible to see so many people. I don't think we've ever seen so many spectators at a rally."
"It's good to get to the end," said a breathless Daniel Elena. "This route was a real challenge, but we managed to avoid the pitfalls to win the world titles for us and for Citroen."
Second-placed Sordo also had a big smile on his face: "First of all, I'd like to congratulate Seb and Daniel who were once again unbeatable this weekend. We too had a good rally and we're proud to have helped contribute to Citroen's sixth world title. I hope that I'll be a prophet in my own country in a couple of weeks!"
Olivier Quesnel, the Citroen Racing Team Principal, showed how proud he was of the work of his team and his crews: "What Loeb's achieved this weekend is quite simply exceptional. Nobody can image the pressure on his shoulders. But he managed to ignore it when he had to concentrate on going for the quickest times. He didn't really need to come first in this rally to become world champion, but the guy's a born winner and he couldn't just do the necessary. Once again, he proved that he's the best driver in the world at present."
"It's another historic day for Citroen," added Frederic Banzet, the make's general manager. "A double and the world titles for us here in France - it's simply incredible! This result is down to the best team in rallying in the world. I'd like to associate all the men and women who work in the Citroen Racing factory in Versailles with this success, as well as all the collaborators who've contributed to these new world titles."
*Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.