Crash.Net WRC News
Loeb takes Turkish win - on three wheels!
27 June 2004
By Rob Wilkins.
Championship leader, Sebastien Loeb has won the Rally of Turkey, 'cruising' to a relatively easy victory today [Sunday] during the third and final leg.
The Citroen ace eventually beat Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by 26.2 seconds - to clinch his fourth win of the season, to add those achieved in Cyprus, Sweden and at Monte Carlo.
It was his first 'real' gravel win - after taking the belated honours in Cyprus following the disqualification of Gronholm - and one made even more dramatic as he arrived in the final service on three wheels, after a late scare when he hit something on the final liasion section and the impact ripped off the right rear wheel.
"We were very happy to win after the last stage," said Loeb. "Everybody said congratulations but I wasn't sure I could finish. It was a big pressure, but when we came to service, then we really knew we had won our first gravel rally."
Loeb though never really looked threatened in reality and the Frenchman, who lead practically from start-to-finish, now heads the drivers' championship by an extended margin - he has 53 points, compared to the 44 of nearest rival, Petter Solberg, who took the final podium place.
"I'm quite happy to be on the podium again," noted 'Hollywood'. "Overall I think the performance has been good. We could have done so much better if it wasn't for the first day. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is."
Gronholm meanwhile was just glad to finish, after last minute gear selection problems in the final two stages. He also had that incident yesterday, which was a real pain in the bum for his co-driver!
"It's been a tough event and I've not been feeling very well today: maybe it was something I have eaten! At least Timo is feeling OK now after his problems yesterday," reflected Gronholm. "Generally it has not been too bad a rally for us, but the gearbox problem on the penultimate stage was a bit of a drama for us. Thanks to the advice of the engineers we were able to fix it rapidly, but we have been certainly made to work hard for our second place here!"
Carlos Sainz was fourth, despite suffering from heat exhaustion, while Francois Duval and Mikko Hirvonen, were fifth and sixth respectively, for Ford and Subaru.
"It has been a pretty good weekend for me," said Duval. "The car has run perfectly today and I'm pleased to score points both for Ford and for myself. It has been incredibly hot again today and I'm relieved that the rally is over and we have no more stages to drive."
Janne Tuohino meanwhile finished seventh, to take the 'privateer' honours, with Anthony Warmbold eighth picking up the final championship point.
Serkan Yazici and Gianluigi Galli rounded out the top ten, the latter scoring manufacturers' points for Mitsubishi, a feat also achieved by Markko Martin, despite the fact he was classified 24th overall.
"I am very happy to have scored points for the team and to have improved my driving style day by day," noted Galli. "My personal strategy before the start was to get through the event without making a mistake and I think we achieved that. This is the longest time I have driven the car, and I think our result and Gilles' test work means it has been a good result for everyone."
In the Junior WRC, Suzuki dominated, finishing 1-2-3-5-6, Per-Gunnar Andersson taking the win - his first at this level, while team-mates, Kosti Katajamaki and Guy Wilks were second and third. Yesterday's 'Junior' leader, Mirco Baldacci finished sixth, a puncture this morning dropping him down the order and denying him top spot.
"I'm very happy to win the rally with the car intact and score my first JWRC victory," said PG. "I've been happy with my speed in the car, but the priority for me on this rally was to get to the end and score points. I'm very pleased that we've been able to achieve this in such a successful way and that is mostly down to the strength and reliability of the Ignis, which has once again been fantastic."
In total only 32 cars finished the event, 65 having taken part in the ceremonial start at Cumhuriyet Square on Thursday.
The only two major retirements were Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanpera, the former going out on SS4 with electrical problems, while Rovanpera was sidelined in SS13, with gearbox difficulties. Panizzi would later take part on the second and third days, under the new 'SupeRally' regulations.
"It was really bad luck that Gilles retired with a broken ECU (electronic control unit); we have never had such a problem before," explained Mitsubishi boss, Sven Quandt. "On the second day we tried some things to modify the suspension set-up and, as you can see from Gilles' times on Sunday, it was a great improvement for rough gravel conditions. So, thanks to the 'SupeRally' concept, we have the possibility to develop the car in a competitive environment."
The WRC now travels across the Atlantic for the next round of the championship, the Rally of Argentina, which starts on Friday 16 July.
Can Loeb and Citroen maintain their leads in the drivers' and manufacturers' championship? Time will tell...