Loeb's third triumphant Tour Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich) collected their third consecutive Rallye de France ? Tour de Corse win today in Ajaccio, Corsica. The Citroen pair's seventh success of the year also sees them ...
Loeb's third triumphant Tour
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich) collected their third consecutive Rallye de France ? Tour de Corse win today in Ajaccio, Corsica. The Citroen pair's seventh success of the year also sees them reduce their deficit to Drivers' championship leader Marcus Gronholm (2nd, Ford/BFGoodrich) to just four points. Dani Sordo (Citroen/BFGoodrich) was once again on the podium, while Sweden's P-G. Andersson clinched the BFGoodrich-backed FIA Junior Championship.
Although the weather conditions were much milder this weekend on the Mediterranean island than they had been a week ago in Spain, the 2007 Tour de Corse turned out to be pretty much a re-make of the Rally Catalunya.
Marcus Gronholm kicked off the French round by claiming the first two stages with his Ford Focus WRC/BFGoodrich running on medium compound g- Force Profiler 2 tyres and reached Friday's lunchtime service halt in Ajaccio ahead of Dani Sordo and Sebastien Loeb.
However, as in Spain, the Frenchman responded in the afternoon's group of stages by posting three fastest times as the route twisted its way across the Col de Bellevalle, past the Golfe de Valinco and the village of Aullène. Loeb concluded the opening day on top, although his lead over his Finnish rival was a slender 4.8 seconds. Gronholm had no intention of throwing in the towel at this point since he dearly wanted to add at least one win on an out-and-out asphalt event to his record before retiring at the end of the year.
Even so, the two-time champion had to face up to the evidence when Saturday morning's three stages saw Loeb increase his overnight lead threefold to take it to 12.6s. Not a huge gap, but Gronholm understood that he would most likely have to settle for second spot and concede two more points to the Frenchman in the Drivers' title chase after those dropped in Spain.
With three rounds remaining before the end of the series, a mere four points this evening split Marcus Gronholm, who has topped the standings since 20 May, and Sebastien Loeb, winner of seven rounds since the beginning of the season.
Citroen/BFGoodrich's Dani Sordo finished second on home ground last Sunday but was unable to make it a second consecutive one-two finish for his team in Corsica. He kicked off the weekend strongly but then fell to third spot on Friday afternoon and that was the position he held at this afternoon's chequered flag despite a score of four fastest times. In the Manufacturers' championship, Citroen has gained a further seven points on Ford following the early troubles of Mikko Hirvonen (Ford/BFGoodrich) who went off on the morning of Day 1.
Meanwhile, the battle for fourth place went all the way down to the wire. Francois Duval (Citroen Xsara/BFGoodrich) seemed to have fourth in his pocket but was halted by alternator failure at the end of Leg 2, leaving Petter Solberg (5th, Subaru/BFGoodrich) and Jari-Matti Latvala (4th Ford/BFGoodrich) to fight it out between them, the honour ultimately going to the Finn.
FIA JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP Another crown for Andersson
Sweden's P-G. Andersson (Suzuki) profited from his visit to Corsica to secure his second title in the BFGoodrich-backed FIA Junior Championship. Before the start of the 2007 series, Urmo Aava and PG. Andersson were level pegging at the top of the provisional standings with 38 points apiece. The Estonian led at the end of Leg 1 but then went off on the following morning's opening stage which also saw Andersson lose two minutes after picking up a puncture. Despite this incident, the Swede reached the finish in fourth position to clinch his second Junior crown. The JRC classification in Corsica was won by Citroen C2 driver Martin Prokop.
Quotes from Corsica: Matthieu Bonardel (BFGoodrich Rallies Manager)
"Despite the new, wider roads visited this weekend compared with previous years, this year's Tour de Corse was hard-wearing on the tyres and indeed the most hardest-wearing asphalt rally of the season. Furthermore, the fine weather over the three days made the quota question difficult. Although the medium compound was ideally suited to the morning stages, the switch to a '2+' compound for the afternoon was necessary as temperatures climbed. Sebastien Loeb used two versions of the g-Force Profiler 2+ made available this weekend by BFGoodrich and posted fastest times with both of them, including some at average speeds of almost 110kph which says a great deal about their potential."