The Whaangha Coast legend lives on!
Whaanga Coast is the mythic stage in Rally New Zealand as it has always been the theatre of multiple upsets. It lived up to its reputation in the 2010 event and the outcome of the rally was not decided until a few hundred metres from the
finish. Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena finished third overall while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti saw the flag in fifth place. The first-named have a comfortable lead in the Drivers' World Championship, and the Citroen Total World Rally Team is still in first place in the Manufacturers' Championship.
After a heroic second day, Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena tackled the final leg of Rally New Zealand with a single aim victory! In addition to the 5.3s he had to pull back on Sebastien Ogier, Loeb was a bit apprehensive about the stages making up the final loop. The Te Hutewai and Whaanga Coast stages, which had to be covered twice, encapsulate all the challenges of the gravel roads in the Southern Hemisphere.
In SS18 (Te Hutewai 1), the six-time world championship crew took the lead in the overall classification after Ogier spun. First time through Whaanga Coast, Loeb was consolidating his first place when he got caught out. "We were in a very narrow, twisty section and there was a right-hander that I overestimated a bit. There were a lot of pebbles and the car understeered before hitting a tree. The bodywork suffered but there was no mechanical damage to the car, and we were able to continue after a few repairs in the service park. We were in fourth place around twenty seconds behind the leader so everything was still up for grabs."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, fourth at the start of the final day, fell back to sixth after the first two stages. "I felt that I'd driven well in Whaanga Coast, but my time wasn't all that great," explained the Spaniard. "Four of us are still tightly grouped together covered by only fifteen seconds so the rally's far from over. We're going to push till the end."
After a fifteen-minute service break, the crews set out to tackle the stages along the Tasmanian sea. Sebastien Loeb
set the quickest time in Te Hutewai 2 (SS20) and was back in the hunt for victory before the final stage of the rally, Whaanga Coast 2! Split time after split time he closed the gap to the two leaders. But a few kilometers from the finish a spin ruined his efforts: "We tried everything and we were on the limit all the time. Once again, it didn't work out! We've finished third and it's not too bad a result after all the incidents of the last three days. This rally has enabled us to maintain a good lead in the world championship, so I'm leaving in a fairly satisfied state of mind."
Dani Sordo set the fastest time in the final stage and finished the rally in fifth place, 4.5s behind Mikko Hirvonen: "I'm happy to have brought an undamaged car home to the mechanics! I enjoyed myself second time through Whaanga Coast. As the roads were well swept the grip was more consistent and I was able to drive in the way I wanted. The points that go with fifth place have helped Citroen retain the lead in the Manufacturers' World Championship, and that's the most important thing."