Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb took his second consecutive win on the ADAC Rallye Deutschland this afternoon, despite more changeable conditions on the tricky asphalt stages. The Frenchman was locked in a day-long duel with Peugeot's Marcus...
Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb took his second consecutive win on the ADAC Rallye Deutschland this afternoon, despite more changeable conditions on the tricky asphalt stages. The Frenchman was locked in a day-long duel with Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm - a battle that went right down to the final kilometre of the final stage. Gronholm dropped time on the day's opening loop of stages north of the rally's Trier base when he clouted a kerb, damaging the suspension on his 206 WRC. Loeb made the most of his rival's problem and eased his way clear, heading into the final stage with a 13-second advantage. Gronholm maintained his flat out pace, but admitted he was going to need his rival to make a mistake to allow him into the top spot. Loeb made no mistakes, but was overly-cautious on the first ten kilometres of SS22. The split time revealed that he had dropped ten seconds to the Finn, and it required an all-out attack from Loeb to bring his Xsara WRC to the finish 3.6s ahead. Richard Burns finished third after a similarly tight fight with Colin McRae, while Markko Martin won the Inmarsat Star of the Rally award for setting ten fastest times. Mechanical troubles aboard his Ford Focus RS WRC03 ensured he would finish no higher than fifth, however. Burns continues to lead the drivers' championship - extending his to four points over Carlos Sainz, while Peugeot heads the race for the manufacturers' championship with a seven-point cushion over Citroen.
Technical: All three Xsara WRCs ran without problems today. Philippe Bugalski retired the fourth Citroen on the opening leg with turbo problems.
Sporting: Sebastien Loeb's win here is his third ever WRC success - and his second consecutive win on this event. The Frenchman was on top form through Sunday; he may not have set any fastest times, but he brought the Xsara home at the head of the field having seen off the reigning world champion. Colin McRae spun on the final stage of the first loop, after setting fastest times through the previous two. He and Richard Burns battled through the last three stages, with the Scotsman being forced to give best to the 2001 champion, his cause not helped by a spin on SS19. The final Xsara of Carlos Sainz was also stuck in a final-stage fight - the Spaniard continuing to trade times with Ford's Francois Duval. Not having enjoyed this event, Sainz finally had something to celebrate as he beat his former team-mate by 9.5s.
Sebastien Loeb said: "It is a fantastic result to win this event again. The fight with Marcus through the last few stages was amazing. I thought we had enough going into the last stage - but then I saw the split time and knew I was only three seconds ahead I had to put in the maximum attack for the last part - but it worked."
Colin McRae said: "All of our good work this morning was spoiled when we spun. There was some gravel in a corner and the back of the car just got away. It was a real slow one though, we had to do loads of shunting forward and backwards."
Carlos Sainz said: "I'm quite glad to get this rally finished. It hasn't been the best for me, but you have some rallies like this. Today has been a big fight with Francois, which has made the final day more interesting."
Marlboro Peugeot Total
Technical: Gilles Panizzi's Peugeot 206 WRC suffered suspension problems through the first loop of stages this morning, while Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns's cars ran without fault.
Sporting: Gronholm hit a kerb on the first stage this morning, damaging the front-right suspension on his car and dropping him further behind Sebastien Loeb. The Finn then dropped more time through the final loop, ending the event in second place. Burns was slowed by a spin mid-way through the first stage of the morning, but other than that he enjoyed a trouble-free run to clinch the final podium place after a fascinating battle with Colin McRae. Panizzi was at a loss to explain the suspension trouble, but it cost him enough time to drop him behind Petter Solberg and Cedric Robert. Robert's works-specification, Bozian-run 206 arrived at the finish one place ahead of Panizzi in ninth spot.
Marcus Gronholm said: "Before I even hit the kerb, I'd dropped some time when I ran wide at one junction. When I broke the suspension, there was a big bang and then it was hard to keep the car straight. I tried to fix the problem after the stage, but there wasn't time. I got it almost fixed for the third run - but it was not 100 per cent perfect. A win would have been nice, but at least we've got some points from this event."
Richard Burns said: "We got some luck with the weather on that first loop - it's about time after the way we kept catching the worse of it yesterday. It was only drizzling for us on part of the stage. The spin was a real shame this morning, prior to that we'd been up on Colin (McRae - who won the stage) at the split. This was a real fight to the finish and a tough rally."
Gilles Panizzi said: "The team changed the suspension last night, I don't know what happened - yesterday the car was running okay, but then today it has some very strange handling. I don't know whether the suspension is broken or whether it is just the wrong set-up, whatever it is - it's not right. This combined with the brake problems we had earlier in the rally have made this a disappointing event."
Ford Motor Company
Technical: Markko Martin's Ford Focus RS WRC03 suffered problems with its transmission on this third and final leg of the event. The sister car of Francois Duval ran without fault, as did the 2002 specification Focus of Mikko Hirvonen.
Sporting: Martin started the day in third place and on the crest of a wave after moving up from tenth through leg two. His efforts to close on the lead duo hit trouble mid-way through the second stage of the day, when a shaft snapped between the front and centre differentials, leaving the Estonian with only two-wheel-drive for the remainder of that stage and all of the 19 kilometres of St Wendeler Land. He dropped back to fifth, but pulled some time back with fastest time on each of the three remaining stages in the event. Martin's co-driver Michael Park was struggling with sickness throughout the final day. Duval lost out in his titanic battle with Carlos Sainz, finishing the event seventh, 9.5s behind Sainz. A stall on the start-line of the final test hadn't helped the Belgian's cause. Hirvonen's drama-free rally continued through the final leg of the event, with the young Finn finishing the event in 13th place.
Markko Martin said: "I'm encouraged by the pace we've shown on the stages, but at the same time frustrated by the problems we have had. When everything was going right for us, we were untouchable on this rally, setting ten fastest times out of 22 shows that. The problem with the transmission this morning just happened, there was no warning or anything like that. One minute we had four-wheel-drive, the next it was only two."
Francois Duval said: "This has been a bit of a mixed weekend for us. We've set some good times and made some good tyre choices, but also there has been the odd mistake. I'm happy to have scored some points for the team, but at the same time it is disappointing to lose out to Carlos on the final stage."
Mikko Hirvonen said: "Driving the stages in the wet was harder than I thought it would be, but I have learned a lot from this event. The car was perfect for the whole rally - I'm even happier that I have finished the event without a mark on the car."
555 Subaru World Rally Team
Technical: Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC2003 ran without fault through the final leg, while Tommi Makinen retired with an electrical fault on the opening leg.
Sporting: Solberg returned to full fitness for the final leg of the event. He enjoyed the wet conditions throughout the final leg, moving past Peugeot pair Gilles Panizzi and Cedric Robert by setting top five times on five of the day's six stages.
Petter Solberg said: "I am a little disappointed with this rally. I think the times we have set on the dry asphalt have shown that we still have some work to do, but then again when it was dry I was really struggling with my fitness. Today I felt so much better than on the two days before, I was really struggling on those stages. I think people noticed that I wasn't my usual self."
Hyundai World Rally Team
Technical: Armin Schwarz's Accent WRC was concerned a transmission problem early in leg one. Freddy Loix and Manfred Stohl's cars ran without problems through the final leg.
Sporting: Loix guided his Accent home to collect one manufacturer point for the Korean marque. The Belgian enjoyed a largely trouble-free day. His team-mate Schwarz ended the event just one place behind him in 12th place.
Stohl's semi-works car finished further down the order in 18th place. The fourth works-specification Accent WRC on the event of Justin Dale finished the rally after a more mechanical maladies on this final leg. Dale's car stopped for five minutes on the second stage this morning. The British driver thought his event was all over, but after working on the ECU, the car finally fired up and allowed him to make it to the finish.
Armin Schwarz said: "This morning I was struggling a little bit in the long corners, the diff wasn't really working right - the car was understeering quite badly. The stages today have been very tricky."
Freddy Loix said: "The stages were okay this morning, except in the middle one where I stalled in a hairpin. I don't know why it happened, but we fired it up and carried on. We thought about trying to catch Roman Kresta who was not far ahead through the final loop - but the team didn't think this was such a good idea!"
Manfred Stohl said: "This event hasn't really gone that well for me. I dropped some time on the first day, but then yesterday and today - in the more difficult conditions - I felt I have been driving better - but it's hard to get the time back once it's gone. I have finished both of the rallies that I have started in this car, now I'm looking forward to my next outing where I want to keep that record going."
Spain's Dani Sola took a comfortable win in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. The Mitsubishi Lancer driver had controlled this event from the start. His only problem through the final day was a cracked exhaust manifold, which cost him some power from the Lancer's engine. Martin Rowe (Subaru Impreza) finished second, albeit four and a half minutes down. The British driver's cause wasn't helped when the gear lever snapped on his car on the opening loop of stages this morning.
Cedric Robert was the top non-official driver, placing his works-specification, Bozian Racing-run Peugeot 206 WRC in ninth place.