Loeb and Citroen start the season on the podium
The third and final day of Rally Sweden did not change anything among the front-runners. Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena finished the first round of the 2010 FIA Rally World Championship in second place. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti,
their team-mates in the Citroen Total World Rally Team, brought their C4 WRC home in fourth position.
Starting the third day of the rally 16.6s behind Mikko Hirvonen, Loeb knew that he had to do something really special to wrench the win from the Finn: "Everything's still possible with 100 kilometres of specials ahead of us, but it's going to be difficult."
At the end of the 22-km Rammen (SS17) special, the C4 WRC driver set his seventh scratch time in the rally. But he finished only two-tenths of a second in front of his rival: "There's no use just matching his pace, I'll have to go even quicker to close the gap!"
The crews immediately attacked the Varmullsasen special. This time, Hirvonen came out on top. Sebastien finished 7.3s behind and the gap exceeded 20 seconds. "We'll just have to be happy with second place," said a resigned Loeb when he got back to the Hagfors service park. "I managed to pull out a slight lead by the first splits of SS18, but Mikko fought back and he closed the gap again. I gave myself a few frights, in particular when I kissed a wall of snow! I said to myself that from now on it'd be better to hang on to second and not start the championship with a retirement."
After the 30-minute stop in the service park the crews competed in the last three stages of the rally. As the gaps between the front-runners were quite large, all the drivers gave themselves a wide safety margin and there were no changes in the order until the finish at Karlstad.
"As I've always said, I start each rally with victory as my aim. But if I feel that winning isn't within my grasp, I prefer to bag the maximum number of points rather than risk an accident," stated Loeb. "I didn't reckon I was the favourite for this event and I found myself up against a rival who drove a perfect rally. It's good to start the season with a large haul of points and I'm looking forward to Mexico to get my revenge!"
Dani Sordo put his previous day's disappointment behind him and concentrated on keeping fourth place on the final day: "My mission was simple: hold on to fourth and score points for Citroen in the Manufacturers' World Championship. Mission accomplished, but sometimes it's difficult to run at a slower pace than to push really hard like I did on Friday. I'm sorry not to be on the podium, but like Seb I'm now looking forward to the next rally."
"On our rivals' favourite surface our performances had nothing to envy theirs," summed up Olivier Quesnel, Citroen Racing. Team Principal: "Sebastien and Dani both drove great rallies but you can't win them all! Our drivers' second and fourth places are a pretty good result in the context of the world championships. And I'd like to finish by adding that we'll be perfectly placed to tackle the specials on the Rally Mexico gravel roads."