The Citroen World Rally Team succeeded in reaching all its goals this weekend at Rally de Espana: Sebastien Loeb
won the event, taking maximum points; Dani Sordo took second place, confirming the team's sought-after one-two result; and defending champion Citroen has now clinched the
2009 manufacturers' crown thanks to their Spanish points score.Sebastien Loeb
had to deal with a combative teammate this weekend, as Sordo intended to show his worth in front of the home crowd. And so he did, bettering Loeb on several occasions although it was understood that the Spaniard would eventually have to make way to Loeb's title chase.
"This one was tough because Dani was pushing very hard at the start, so we tried to fight, but we knew also that we mustn't make any mistakes just fighting together; it was so important for us to finish," said Loeb after celebrating with co-driver Daniel Elena on the roof of their C4 WRC. "We were really confident.
"It was really a pleasure to drive again on tarmac," Loeb continued. "I'm really happy, I enjoyed a lot."
Dani Sordo was a match for Loeb on his home rally, taking the lead from the start and exchanging it back and forth with his teammate on Day Two before relinquishing the top spot to Loeb in order to favour the Frenchman's chances for a sixth world title. If team considerations had not come into play, it would have been a great battle for victory in Spain.
"It's second but I'm glad to have helped Sebastien with his championship today and also the manufacturers' championship for Citroen," Sordo said after congratulating his victorious teammates. "But also for me it's been a very good weekend!"
Taking third place, Mikko Hirvonen was never in a position to battle at the front this weekend, his works Ford Focus RS WRC unable to maintain the pace of the Citroen duo ahead. The Finn had planned for a second-place finish at least, but when that proved impossible, concentrated on finishing third and reached that goal. The points taken allow him to remains the series leader by a single point.
"It wasn't the best rally," Hirvonen recognised. "Not a bad weekend, though.
"Now we'll see how it goes on the next one," the Finn said, thinking ahead to the final round in Great Britain. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm waiting for that fight; it's going to be a fantastic weekend.
The 'star of the show' award can certainly go to Petter Solberg, who took fourth place in Spain after spending the weekend acquainting himself with his privateer team's new Citroen C4 WRC. Participating in a rally with an unfamiliar car is never an easy endeavour and the 2003 WRC champion was overjoyed to display his competitiveness so quickly: he never finished a stage lower than fifth, and recorded four stage wins.
Solberg admitted that his performance meant a lot to him personally as it greatly enhanced his confidence following the last few difficult years spent at Subaru. His Spanish rally at the wheel of a fast car changed all that - 'Hollywood' Solberg is back!
The Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier did well once again, increasing his pace as confidence grew upon the Spanish tarmac and taking a pair of stage wins on Day Two. He battled hard in an attempt to overtake Petter Solberg in the general standings but knew enough to ease off when the added risks outweighed his chances of reaching the finish line.
Jari-Matti Latvala never really found the right speed in Spain, ending the rally nearly three minutes off the winner. He was however remarkably constant over the weekend, recording no less than 13 sixth-best finishes out of 18 stages.
Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson struggled much more, taking seventh place over seven minutes down the line from the top spot. Federico Villagra placed eighth for the Munchi's Ford team's final appearance on a WRC round this year.
For the record, Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen recorded a one-two victory on Rally de Espana's final run, thereby giving Ford at least one stage victory on this event.
In regards to the 2009 World Rally Championship drivers' title, that very close battle will go down to the wire when Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb
reunite in Great Britain later this month - on the gravel roads of Wales from October 23rd to 25th - for their final confrontation of the season.
"That's going to be some rally," Hirvonen promised.
D. B. © CAPSIS International