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Spain – day 3: One point in it as Loeb wins
4 October 2009
The battle between Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen for the World Rally Championship title will go to the season finale in Great Britain with Hirvonen leading by a single point, following victory for Loeb in Spain for the fifth successive season.
Having taken the lead on the final stage of day two, Loeb led from the front through the final day to take victory by 12.0secs from team-mate Dani Sordo for a result which guaranteed the manufacturers' crown for Citroen with an event still to run.
"This one was tough," Loeb said, "because Dani was pushing very hard at the start, so we tried to fight, but we knew also that we mustn't make any mistakes just fighting together - it was so important for us to finish. But we were really confident. It was really a pleasure to drive again on tarmac - for me it's been a long time since we did it.
“The result now should be perfect, I'm really happy, I enjoyed it a lot."
Sordo had led the way through the opening day of the event and took second having played the team game to aid Loeb and Citroen in the race for the championship, while Hirvonen was forced to settle for third – despite the best efforts of Petter Solberg to close in on his debut with the Citroen C4.
While he had hoped to fight for second, Hirvonen was pleased to retain the lead ahead of a season finale where it effectively becomes winner takes all.
"I'm a bit disappointed because I wanted second place but third keeps me in the lead of the championship," Hirvonen reflected. "It took me longer to get used to asphalt than I would have liked but I learned a lot and I think I now know what I need to do to improve my pace here next year. For the last two days I've driven at a safe speed, at a pace which was sufficient to keep Petter Solberg behind me in fourth. That was the sensible thing to do with the title in mind.
"All I can think about now is going to Great Britain for the final round. I'm really looking forward to it because it should be a fantastic weekend. Whoever finishes highest there between myself and Sebastien Loeb will take the title, and what an exciting way to end the season that will be."
Sebastien Ogier took fifth place ahead of the second Ford of Jari-Matti Latvala, while Matthew Wilson and Federico Villagra rounded out the top eight to pick up the final points.
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