The Citroen World Rally Team's flag-to-flag domination of this weekend's Rally Catalunya was rewarded by the outfit's third one-two finish of the season.
Thanks to their sixth win of the year, Sebastien Loeb
and co-driver Daniel Elena have succeeded in closing to within a single
point of Ford's Mikko Hirvonen in the 2009 drivers' standings, while second place for Dani Sordo and Marc Marti handed Citroen sufficient points to wrap up the firm's fifth manufacturers' world crown. The outcome of the drivers' title chase will be settled on Rally GB (October 23-25).
Loeb and Sordo ended Saturday's action split by just 1.5 seconds and in a strong position to fulfil the mission they had been given by team boss Olivier Quesnel before the start. Before any celebrations could begin however, they still had two attempts at today's loop of three stages situated to the west of Salou to tackle. Neither driver had any intention of easing up on Day Three, because they both desired to stay one hundred per cent focused, savour today's six tests, and entertain the huge crowds which lined the stages.
Indeed, Dani Sordo kicked off the last day with the best time on SS13 (Riudecanyes). It was then Sebastien Loeb
's turn to top the timesheet on the short La Serra d'Almos test (SS15) which enabled the five-time World Champion to return to the day's first service area in Salou with a cushion of 2.3 seconds at the top of the leaderboard.
"I've above all been concentrating on not cutting the corners so as to reduce the risk of puncturing," Loeb explained. "There's no point in trying to gain a few tenths of a second when there's not really any need. I will be just as cautions this afternoon, too, because the stages will probably be quite soiled second time round.
As it turned out, the final loop had no effect on the order at the sharp end, and Loeb/Elena were able to cruise home to collect the 53rd world class win of their career.
"It was important to come first and second here, not only to wrap up the manufacturers' championship but also to keep our chances very much alive for the drivers' title," Loeb said. "Everyone did a great job this weekend and both cars ran perfectly. I would like to thank Dani, too, for playing his part as teammate to the letter. Had the stakes not been so important this weekend, I am sure the spectators on this year's Rally Catalunya would have been treated to a terrific scrap."
"I am proud to have contributed to yet another world title for Citroen," Dani Sordo added. "This title is the result of a real team effort. You cannot disassociate the engineers, mechanics and everyone in the squad from today's success."
"Today's result has allowed us to tick the first box of our 2009 wish-list by making sure of winning the manufacturers' title," declared Citroen Racing Director Olivier Quesnel. "Thanks to Dani and Marc's magnificent support, Seb and Daniel will now be able to focus on just one thing on Rally GB, and that will be to finish ahead of Mikko Hirvonen to try to win a sixth drivers' title.
Quesnel also had words of thanks for the Petter Solberg World Rally Team, which made its Citroen C4 WRC debut this weekend, and for the lead Citroen Junior Team driver.
"I also want to congratulate Petter Solberg and Sebastien Ogier on their solid performances here in Spain. Thanks to them, C4 WRCs claimed 17 of this weekend's 18 stages."