Loeb takes Jordan Rally triumph
3 April 2010
Sebastien Loeb came through to take the victory on the Jordan Rally today, his second win of the season and a result that strengthens his lead in the battle for the 2010 WRC drivers' title.
Loeb moved into P1 on Friday afternoon, when Jari-Matti Latvala was unable to hold the Frenchman back, suffering running first on the road and sweeping away the loose gravel.
Seb started the final leg with over a 20 second advantage and he then stretched that to 37.8 seconds this morning, thanks to three stage wins from a possible four. He then maintained his stranglehold on the lead on the repeat loop, eventually coming home 35.8 seconds up on Latvala.
It wasn't a straightforward victory however, and the Dead Sea-based round turned out to be rather tactical as drivers' jostled for position and tried to avoid having to play the road sweeper.
Indeed Loeb should have been first in the order today – and Latvala third – but in the end Sebastien Ogier ended up running at the front after he picked up two penalties to aid his Citroen team-mate. Ford also employed the same sort of measures with Mikko Hirvonen, who had re-started under the SupeRally format after his off on day two, eventually slotting in to run third and crucially, ahead of Latvala.
Despite all that though, Loeb said he was still pleased to win and he now has a 25-point lead in the 2010 WRC drivers' championship. Citroen also leads the manufacturers' - 101 points to BP Ford Abu Dhabi's 87.
"It has been a great weekend," said Loeb. "It's a very difficult rally, very hard and very fast - there were a lot of stones. It was a good fight. I'm really delighted to be here."
Latvala meanwhile was also content: "I'm still happy. Okay we couldn't try for the victory but finishing second is good for me, it's a good result," said the Finn, who moves up to second in the rankings, with 6 more points than Hirvonen. "It's definitely boosted my confidence now so maybe now we can be more of a challenge for Loeb."
Away from the battle for P1, Petter Solberg grabbed the final spot on the podium, albeit 36 seconds off P2 – and only really gaining the position after Ogier seemingly became Citroen's sacrificial lamb.
"This is absolutely perfect for the championship," said Solberg. "We lost big time yesterday. This afternoon I calmed down though and I wasn't taking any risks. It's difficult to gain a lot of time here."
Dani Sordo was next up and another 30 seconds or so further back, giving Citroen a 1-3-4 finish: "Today we lost a lot of time but now I feel better than last night as we got fourth. It's really good."
Britain's Matthew Wilson rounded out the top five and took his best result of the season in his Stobart Ford Focus. He ended up over 6.5 minutes off Sordo and conceded that it was a very difficult event.
"It's been a very, very tough rally, more than I remember from two years ago [when the WRC last came to Jordan]," he confirmed. "Today we've been able to cruise through and avoid the big stuff and generally be careful."
Further down the order, Ogier had to settle for sixth overall, and while he gained a place this afternoon, he was disappointed not to be able to try and defend his place on the podium. Indeed without the two penalties (which lost him 8 minutes and 50 seconds) and without having to run first on the road, he would almost certainly have been in the top three.
"I don't like these regulations but there are just two manufacturers and I am young so I do what the boss says," Ogier noted. "But I have proved that I am improving rally after rally. It's been a very good weekend. We had a good run, were quite fast and made no mistakes."
Federico Villagra and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top eight, the latter getting his first points finish of the season – and on only his third outing in the WRC with the Citroen C4 WRC. Raikkonen may have had a few moments, but he again set some promising times, including a sixth best effort on day 2 in SS8.
"The first day was very difficult but after that we decided to take it easy," Raikkonen explained. "It's been a tough rally. I knew it was going to be like that. This rally seems to be very tricky, so it was good to finish."
Of the rest, Henning Solberg was ninth – having lost considerable time on day two with a puncture, while Xavier Pons took tenth in his Ford Fiesta S2000 and the SWRC win.
"This is perfect," said Pons. "I'm surprised, two rallies and two wins. The event wasn't easy but this is a good result for us and the team. Every rally the car gets better. It's a good start."
Patrik Flodin and Armindo Araujo came in eleventh and twelfth, with the former 33.1 seconds off Pons at the finish - and that final 'senior' WRC point. Flodin did take the P-WRC victory however, almost two minutes ahead of Araujo.
In terms of retirements, the biggest casualty was Mikko Hirvonen, who went out on day two in the opening test. He re-started on Saturday thanks to the SupeRally format and was eventually classified in 20th: "It was good to get back behind the wheel today and get some driving in before Turkey," said Hirvonen, who was gutted with his error in SS8 yesterday. "I definitely need to shape up for the next rally. There is still a long way to go though and I believe if everything goes well we still have a chance."
The 2010 World Rally Championship now continues in two weeks time with the Rally of Turkey running from April 16-18.