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Turkish delight for Loeb
5 June 2005
Sebastien Loeb has made it four WRC wins in a row after claiming a dominant victory on the Rally of Turkey.
Loeb, who led for all-but-one of the 17 special stages - SS1 having been cancelled before the event started - went into the final two stages with a comfortable margin to second placed Petter Solberg and was able to cruise to the finish to extend his lead over the Norweigen driver to 13 points in the battle for the 2005 WRC title.
"Four wins in a row, I'm clearly on a positive run at the moment," Loeb reflected at the finish, "but I want to stress the importance of the team's contribution to this series of wins. They are more motivated than ever and continue not to make any mistakes. It was also a big pleasure to join forces with Carlos again. We picked up our association as though we had parted company the previous day."
Loeb also admitted that he had kept his good luck charm close by for the event.
"The silver fern the Maoris gave me in New Zealand? It's still in the car," he said. "It's a bit faded, but it's still there and it will stay there for the next rounds!"
Behind Loeb, the big battle of the day was expected to between former champions Solberg and Marcus Gronholm for second place, the duo having battled for the place throughout the second leg of the rally.
With a lead of under ten seconds heading into the final two stages, Solberg powered his Subaru to the quickest time on the second run through the Chimera stage to extend his lead over the Peugeot man who was unable to make the time up despite winning the final stage.
"I took quite a lot of time out of Marcus yesterday and had a good feeling that I could do something similar today," Solberg reflected. "We attacked quite hard on the first stage today, but on the second we just drove according to the splits. We managed to secure second place and I'm very pleased for Subaru and the team.
"Our pace was encouraging, but we still have to find a solution to challenge Sebastien all the time."
With strict instructions to bring his 307 WRC home to the finish and score points for the Manufacturers' championship, Gronholm wasn't going to risk anything stupid on the final 40km of competitive action and took third to help Peugeot retain the lead of the championship, although Loebs win - coupled with fourth place for Carlos Sainz - means Citroen have closed the gap to just four points after Markko Martin in the second Peugeot could only finish fifth.
Toni Gardemeister continued his consistent run of form for the Ford team as he scored points for the seventh successive rally in 2005 with a sixth place, although the Finn slips behind Gronholm in the standings to fifth place.
"It's been a hard weekend," he said. "I've scored points, which is good, but I really wanted to finish ahead of Markko Märtin and I didn't. I've not been so happy with my performance. I like the roads here but I've not had a good feeling. I lost time yesterday with a puncture and that was my fault because I hit some stones.
"I was happier with the set-up of the car today. I made the suspension stiffer and that felt good but then the grip wasn't as strong, so maybe if we change the set-up we need to look at different tyre options as well. The surface is different on the next round in Greece and I'm aiming for a good result there."
Behind Gardemeister, team-mate Roman Kresta used his cautious approach to secure another points finish, while Gigi Galli was rewarded for his fine display with the final championship point - his chance of a podium having vanished on the opening stages of leg two when turbo problems dropped his Mitsubishi Lancer down to tenth.
In the Production Car World Rally Championship battle, Toshi Arai clinched a dramatic victory after overhauling Marcos Ligato on the final stage of the event.
Starting the day in fourth place and over 40 seconds of the lead, the Subaru driver was a comfortable winner of both of the final days stages to steal victory by just 1.6 seconds, with Ligato forced to settle for second. The victory for Arai means he now holds a ten point lead in the championship with half of the eight events gone.
Brit Mark Higgins, who had started the day in second place, was forced out on the final stage.
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