''We have to rebuild it all''
Rally Poland was not the best of weekends for Sebastien Loeb
: the five-time champion crashed his works Citroen C4 WRC on the event's fourth stage when he hit a tree stump half-covered by sand.
His first day of racing therefore ended early,
but fortunately the damage to his car was repairable and the Frenchman returned to action the following day with a 20-minute deficit on the leaders.
Fighting back up the standings over the next two days, on Sunday afternoon Loeb found a helping hand coming from the satellite Citroen Junior Team operation when Evgeny Novikov deliberately lost time in order to let him gain a position. Sebastien Ogier's earlier mechanical retirement also helped.
Another CJT driver, Conrad Rautenbach, stopped on the penultimate stage and voluntarily dropped 13 minutes to allow an eighth-place finish for Loeb.
Then Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala suddenly crashed on the closing super special stage, taking himself out and permitting Loeb to step into seventh place overall at the Rally Poland finish.
"It wasn't a good rally, it was obviously a rally to forget," considered Sebastien Loeb
, although he knows it could have been worse: "Seeing how things started off on Friday, nonetheless finishing the rally with two points is not bad."
The rally started out with Loeb and title rival Mikko Hirvonen battling for the win, but while the Frenchman's attempts at victory abruptly ended on SS4, the Ford team driver continued on his way and never looked back.
"As usual he conducted a faultless race," commented Loeb. "He dominated, he led all the time, he won with a nice margin."
"Starting from there, it's true that taking two points was pretty unhoped-for and looking at the situation in the championship, they could be very precious points at the end of the season," he added.
With four rallies to go, Hirvonen is now at the top of the drivers' standings. The next round takes place in Finland, where he will be in very familiar surroundings.
"The championship leader is Finnish so I think he will be very difficult to beat over there," Loeb admitted.
After winning the first five rounds of the season, Loeb's streak of bad luck over the last three rallies saw his strong lead whittled down to a single point behind Mikko Hirvonen.
For Loeb, it's almost as if the 2009 championship had just been reset.
"We can say that it's a new start," the Citroen team driver mused. "We have to rebuild it all."