Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has won Wales Rally GB today - and perhaps fittingly the seven-time world champion, who has dominated so much of the WRC car era, took victory on what was the swansong for the current generation of cars.
The much anticipated final day battle failed to really materialise with Loeb beating Petter Solberg on all four of the day's stages. But at the end of the final stage, Margam Park 2, the Frenchman was quick to pay tribute to his rival: “Petter was going very fast with nearly no mistakes. That old guy is still really fast,” Loeb said. “I enjoyed this rally a lot and had a lot of pleasure on the stages.”
Solberg meanwhile, conceded he had other priorities apart from winning the event: “For us it was more important to claim third in the WRC standings than an overall victory. I must give a special thank you to my family for putting up with me for past two years,” said the privateer. “It's been great. I don't know where I will be next year but I wherever I am I want to take the fight to Loeb.”
That third place in the championship could have been second if BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala had not got ahead of his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen on the penultimate stage of the event: “I am so, so pleased with second in the championship. It's like a dream to finish here as runner-up in the WRC,” said the Crash.net
columnist. “The victories this year have been a bonus. Mikko was pushing hard this morning so I had to take some risks to beat him today.”
Fourth placed Hirvonen was in reflective mood at the end of the event: “For sure it has been a hard year,” he conceded. “It will be sad to say goodbye to the current generation of cars. We have had a lot of good results. But I am looking forward to the future now and all will be new next year. I am looking forward to a better season.”
After setting fastest time on the final stage of the event, fifth placed Dani Sordo was also more interested in looking at what, for him, is an uncertain future: “Next year I don't know,” he replied when asked about his plans for 2011. “Why not the Mini? It won't be competitive at the start but with BMW behind it, it will improve.”
Henning Solberg took his Stobart Ford Focus to sixth place while seventh placed Matthew Wilson felt it hadn't been his finest event: “It has not been the best of weekends after the mistakes I made on Friday,” said the Englishman. “Since then I've kind of been in no-man's land. It's been so hard to push.”
F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen was pleased to bring his Citroen Junior Team-run C4 WRC home in one piece but confirmed that nothing has yet been decided for next year: “I would tell you if I knew, but I don't know myself,” said the Finn. “There are a few options and hopefully they will come up with something. I would like to stay on.”
After problems yesterday in his Impreza WRC, Mads Ostberg was a somewhat demoralised ninth: “I can't wait to try a full season next year. My lips are sealed,” he said cryptically post-SS20.
Andreas Mikkelsen, who will race in the IRC next year for Skoda UK, completed the top ten and he was delighted to take the SWRC victory: “That was my first rally with Skoda - and to do so well shows the potential for next year,” he said.
The SWRC provided much of the final day drama firstly with Jari Ketomaa rolling out of the title battle and then Craig Breen snatching second place on the penultimate stage. Third was enough, however, for Xavier Pons to clinch the title.
Ott Tanak comfortably won the PWRC category but a crash for Martin Semerad on Margam 1 promoted Armindo Araujo to second place en-route
to his second PWRC title. Third place made the trip from New Zealand worthwhile for Hayden Paddon.
The World Rally Championship now takes a break before the new era gets underway in Sweden in February next year.by Peter Hughes
To see the full result - CLICK HERE.
To view the latest championship standings - CLICK HERE.