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IRC: Loix takes Madeira victory

8 August 2010

Freddy Loix has made it two wins from two starts in this season's Intercontinental Rally Challenge by heading a Skoda one-two-three on Rali Vinho Madeira.

Loix's victory was his fifth since the IRC began in 2007 and means he joins defending champion Kris Meeke at the top of the list of all-time IRC event winners.

Juho Hanninen continues to lead the IRC drivers' standings but, by finishing behind team-mate Jan Kopecky in third, the Finn's title advantage has now been trimmed to seven points with four rounds remaining. It was the third time this season that Skoda has filled all three podium places.

Loix didn't put a wheel wrong throughout the event in his Fabia S2000 Facelift and after an early battle with Abarth Grande Punto driver Luca Rossetti, he moved into a lead he would never relinquish on stage seven.

To underline his dominance, Loix was fastest on 14 of the rally's 21 all-asphalt stages, despite nursing an injured left shoulder, which he sustained falling off his motorbike two weeks ago.

"It's been a good, clean drive from the start,” he said. “I had a two-hour test on Wednesday evening and straightaway I had a perfect feeling with the car and there was never a problem. Okay, I hurt my shoulder but it was fine in the stages because this car is so good and easy to drive. I'm very happy."

Defending IRC champion Kris Meeke started leg two in second but failed to go beyond stage 17 when his Peugeot UK 207 suffered a terminal engine failure 2.8 kilometres into the test.

"It was very sudden and is a real blow," said Meeke. "It leaves the championship hanging by a thread but I have to be pleased with my performance because I don't think I've ever driven as well on a Tarmac rally as I did this weekend."

Meeke's retirement almost brought about disaster for Kopecky and Hanninen, who were both competing in Madeira for the first time. The Skoda drivers were running behind Meeke on the road when they encountered a coating of oil on the road, which had been dropped by Meeke's stricken Peugeot.

Kopecky managed to survive a wild slide on the third-gear sweeping left-hand corner, while Hanninen could not avoid brushing a concrete retaining wall. The impact caused damage to his Fabia's right-rear corner, which triggered a puncture eight kilometres from the end of the stage and dropped the Finn behind local driver Miguel Nunes.

But with Nunes concentrating on maximising points in the Madeira championship rather than maintaining third place, Hanninen faced little opposition on his charge to the final podium spot.

Behind Nunes, Vitor Sa overcame an oil pressure problem to claim fifth with Filipe Freitas finishing as the leading Group N runner in sixth overall following Rui Pinto's crash on stage 16 in a similar Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer. The final IRC points went to Joao Magalhaes in seventh and Pedro Peres in eighth.


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