WRC

Rally Japan: Final summary

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) became the most successful driver in the sport's history by claiming his 27th WRC victory, moving ahead of Carlos Sainz in the all-time standings. Behind the Ford duo of Gronholm and Hirvonen, Chris Atkinson (Subaru) ...

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) became the most successful driver in the sport's history by claiming his 27th WRC victory, moving ahead of Carlos Sainz in the all-time standings. Behind the Ford duo of Gronholm and Hirvonen, Chris Atkinson (Subaru) cruised through the final day to take fourth ahead of Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) who overcame gearbox problems. Dani Sordo (Citroen) was a comfortable sixth until he was held up by the stranded car of Luis Perez Companc (Ford) on the penultimate stage, losing more than a minute. That dropped him 1.2sec behind Toshi Arai (Subaru) in the final positions. Sordo was later excluded for not fastening his seat belts after leaving his car during the incident. Petter Solberg (Subaru) had continued brake problems this morning and dropped 3min 30sec, sliding from sixth to seventh. Gareth MacHale (Ford) retired three stages from the finish after hitting a bridge while Companc crashed out on the penultimate stage.

Kronos Total Citroen

Last year, the Franco-Monegasque pairing clinched a second consecutive world title in Japan. This year, after 27 stages, Seb and Daniel took their 27th career victory and claimed one of the few remaining records that had not yet been in their possession : the record for the total number of career wins, which they had held jointly with Spanish legend Carlos Sainz since the Rallye Deutschland. Now, this historic landmark is theirs alone. On the penultimate stage of the rally, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were stopped by the car of Luis Perez Companc blocking the road after he went off. They lost their sixth position overall in the incident. The Kronos team asked the Race Control that their case should be studied and a notional time be given. This request was rejected. Furthermore, the Stewards watched the on-board cameras on that stage and noticed the Spanish crew did not correctly refasten their seat belts after returning to their car. In consequence, the Stewards have decided to exclude Dani Sordo and Marc Marti from the final classification of the Rally Japan 2006.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: " How was that for close ? At the start of the final leg, I thought that the eight points for second place would have been a good result for the championship. Then we took the decision just to go for it, to try everything. The fight was too good just to walk away and settle for second. Mentally, that was an important turning point. But once we had decided on that course of action, Daniel and I were only thinking about one thing. We had no split times so it was just a question of going flat-out and driving as quickly as possible on order to try and win. On the last stage, we took a few risks. The smell of victory, and the potential joy of a team that once again performed faultlessly, made it all worth it. "

Daniel Sordo/Marc Marti: Excluded

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has reason to celebrate their Japan premiere. The reward for 345,72 special stage kilometres of hard work: fifth place and four points for the driver ranking of the FIA World Rally Championship. Thus Manfred Stohl consolidated fifth intermediate place. During the last three days the OMV driver relied on the experience of 104 WRC-runs and was nevertheless surprised by more than the kindness of the Japanese people.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I am really very satisfied with this result even though I would have loved to be on the podium. But you can't count on even scoring points prior to such a tough rally. At today's rallies experience only goes so far. It is much more important to compete in one and the same run as often as possible. These four points are obviously also important for the driver World Championship. Prior to this season my goal was to be among the top five. I was able to consolidate this place and even break away from Solberg as far as points are concerned."

BP-Ford

BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed a double podium on Rally Japan today after Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen almost secured their third win in four events during a breathtaking final day's action. The Finns came within just 5.6sec of victory after their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car outgunned Sebastien Loeb in a thrilling final day shootout in the remote hills of Hokkaido island. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished third in another Focus RS.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "That was a really great fight with Seb, I was on the limit all day today. A win was possible but it just wasn't to be. I tried so hard to catch him and I just needed one more stage and a few extra kilometres and I would have done. I think Seb was worried but it's difficult to consistently beat him by eight or nine seconds on every stage which is what I had to do today. My mistakes yesterday cost me the win."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "It was quite an easy weekend for me in one way because I settled into third and wasn't challenged. I've learned how to drive at a consistently fast pace and that's important. It's good to be fighting with Dani Sordo for championship position and I want to make sure I'm battling for a podium on every rally. It's a good feeling to step onto the podium after a difficult rally like this and it's important for Ford that we keep picking up good points finishes. My consistency has improved and now I need to get closer to Seb and Marcus."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

No information available at time of going to press.

555 Subaru

Subaru's Chris Atkinson finished Rally Japan in fourth place today after an excellent performance on the final Leg of the competition. Atkinson, who was third on the rally in 2005, set a string of top-five times on the day's six stages and was the Subaru World Rally Team's highest-placed finisher. Bringing his Subaru Impreza WRC2006 home in sixth place, Toshi Arai was the best-placed Japanese driver, while a frustrated Petter Solberg finished eighth.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "We watched the battle at the top of the rally and I wish I was involved. I can't wait to get back into those fights again, but for now we have some problems and we need to work together as a team to find the solutions. It's difficult not just for me, but everyone. There's a lot of hard work from all of us to be done and I hope that at the next event we can be getting a bit closer."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "It's been a tough weekend for everyone, to get to the finish and give the fans something. Today we had a clean run with no major problems as all I had to do was cruise through the day and take a bit more time off Manfred. The result is the best we could have hoped for coming into the rally. For sure we are driving better than ever and certainly more consistently, getting mostly top five stage times."

Toshi Arai/Toni Sircombe: "Generally not so bad throughout the rally. Yes, we had a few problems but I am pleased to get as good a finish as this as I had to learn the World Rally Car and now feel that I know it quite well. I also got used to the car speed and it felt quite comfortable. I wanted to thank Subaru for this opportunity and hope maybe that we can do it again."

-credit: rallye-newsletter.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Jarmo Lehtinen , Ilka Minor , Dani Sordo , Chris Atkinson
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport