Crash.Net WRC News
Spain - leg 3: Spanish hat-trick for Loeb
7 October 2007
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb took his third win in succession on the Rally Catalunya Costa Daurada on Sunday.
Loeb began the event, the twelfth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, with the second best time in SS1, before taking the lead in SS2, when he was 2.3 seconds up on his team-mate, Daniel Sordo and 7 seconds up Marcus Gronholm, his chief championship rival.
Although he was briefly overhauled by Sordo in the middle loop, the Frenchman re-asserted himself in the rain-affected final test on day 1 and ended the opening leg with an 11.3 second cushion.
Seb then maintained his advantage on day two and while he only won two of the day's eight stages the gap to Sordo - and Gronholm in third - remained pretty constant and he could then just pace himself through Sunday's final four tests.
In the end the Citroen man took the win, his sixth of the season, by 13.8 seconds.
The result moves him closer to Gronholm at the top of the drivers' championship standings – the deficit going down from 10 points to 6 with just four rounds left on the schedule.
Dani meanwhile put in what was easily one of his best performances of the season in the #2 Citroen C4 WRC and he did more than enough to secure the runners-up spot and assist Seb in his battle for the drivers' crown.
The fact he managed to lead a WRC event for the very first time was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the three-days for the local star, who also won four stages outright as well.
Gronholm for his part never recovered after struggling in the mixed conditions on day 1 and finishing the first leg 50.6 seconds off Loeb.
Although he kept the pressure on the two Citroens on the second and third legs, winning four of the eight stages on Saturday and three of the four on Sunday, he was unable to make much of an impression. Consequently he had to settle for the final place on the rostrum, something that gives Loeb the momentum heading to the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse next weekend.
Mikko Hirvonen took a solid if unspectacular fourth place in the other BP Ford Focus RS WRC. Mikko tried to push on Saturday to close up on his team-mate and the Citroens, but in the end slipped further back and finally finished nearly 1.5 minutes off Seb and 46 seconds off Gronholm.
Next up was Francois Duval on just his second outing with the OMV Kronos Citroen squad.
Much was expected from the Belgian after his performance in Germany, when he ran right at the front of the pack before eventually finishing second. However he was unable to repeat that form this time out - although there were flashes of speed from him when things went well, including one stage win and an additional four top three times. Duval will now be hoping for better in Corsica.
Petter Solberg brought his Subaru home in sixth albeit 25 seconds behind Duval and nearly 3 minutes off the eventual winner.
Despite being unable to match the front runners though 'Hollywood' was reasonably content and reckons that they have taken a 'good step forward', even though he managed only seven top-five stage times from a possible 18.
Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and Chris Atkinson rounded out the points' scorers in seventh and eighth, the former growing in confidence as the event wore on.
Of the rest, Subaru third driver, Xavier Pons was ninth on his home event - 40 seconds off Atkinson in the sister Impreza, and then came Henning Solberg, who was competing in Spain for the very first time.
Matthew Wilson finished just outside the top ten in eleven, while fellow Ford runners, Thomas Schie, Munchi's man, Federico Villagra and BP Ford 'third' man, Khalid Al-Qassimi completed the top 14.
In the FIA Junior World Rally Championship category Per-Gunnar Andersson took the win in his Suzuki Swift having taken over at the head of the class on Saturday when his team-mate, Urmo Aava lost time with a puncture.
P-G eventually took the honours by 33.9 seconds, with Citroen C2 runner, Martin Prokop second, just ahead of Aava, who finished 6 seconds further back.
Renault Clio runner, Jozef Beres and Citroen C2 man, Conrad Rautenbach were fourth and fifth in the class, while Jaan Molder and Aaron Burkart came in sixth and seventh. Yoan Bonato took the final JRC drivers' point in eighth in his Citroen C2-R2.
In terms of retirements there were a number of casualties, the biggest probably Manfred Stohl, who crashed out in the third stage on Friday. The OMV Kronos Citroen pilot heavily damaged his Xsara in the off and as a result was unable to re-start under the SupeRally format.
There was also some doubt over his participation in Corsica too, but that problem has now been resolved, as he will use the car that had been scheduled to go to Japan.
Munchi's team leader, Luis-Perez Companc was the only other 'works' driver that failed to finish. He went out one stage before Stohl when he went off the road in his Focus. Like Manfred he was unable to re-join the fold.
The FIA World Rally Championship now has no time to relax as competitors head directly to Corsica for round 13, which gets underway this coming Thursday, October 11.