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Ogier ends Loeb's German victory run

21 August 2011

Sebastien Ogier took his fourth win of the year and his very first on asphalt on ADAC Rallye Deutschland today, in the process bringing to a close Sebastien Loeb's eight-year reign on the Trier-based event.

Ogier briefly led on Friday following SS2, but then slipped behind his Citroen colleague to end the first day 7.4 seconds adrift. On Saturday it remained close between the two works DS3 WRC drivers' and while Citroen did instruct its drivers' to hold position, the margin still ebbed and flowed with the younger Frenchman clearly unhappy.

However on the repeat-run through the daunting 34.18 kilometre Panzerplatte test, the event was turned on its head and the dramatic conclusion to the second day saw Loeb slip back to second, losing more than a minute after picking up a puncture.

Ogier was then left way out front and he could just pace himself through the final day, carefully negotiating the last 76 competitive kilometres and eventually triumphing by 39.8 seconds.

It was Citroen's 78th victory in the WRC - the most ever achieved by a single manufacturer in the history of the sport.

“Winning a rally in which my team-mate is so strong is just fantastic,” said Ogier, who now moves up to second in the drivers' championship. “I didn't expect to beat Seb on tarmac. Theoretically, there is still a chance to become world champion for me. As long as this is the case, we will keep on trying.”

Loeb, who had won in Germany every single year since the event joined the championship back in 2002 and who had been unbeaten on all-asphalt since 2004, thus had to settle for the runners-up spot and while he did try and maintain the pressure on the final day he knew it was pretty much a lost cause.

He did win the Power Stage though and take the maximum three bonus points, which was some consolation, and while his championship lead has been cut, he remains 25 points in front with four rounds to go.

“After my eight wins in Germany on the trot, there's no way I can be pleased with second place,” Loeb said. “I've been saying for the past few years that this series would come to an end – and it has!

“We were very unlucky but that's racing. Mathematically speaking [at least] my second place and the points from the Power stage mean that we still have a victory in hand.”

Dani Sordo meanwhile completed the podium after a super impressive performance in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC car. The Spaniard finished the first day in fourth, but then moved up to third in SS10 when Ford's Mikko Hirvonen lost more than a minute with a puncture. Although Hirvonen tried to fight back, Sordo kept calm and in the end comfortably took P3.

Sordo also set some great times – including two second quickest efforts and one third, a top effort especially when you consider this is only the new MINI WRT's team third WRC event – and its first on asphalt.

“I am really, really happy for me and the team,” Sordo said. “For the first rally of the car on tarmac this is very good. This is a surprise and the times were so close to Ford and Citroen that we have a lot of confidence for the next rally. The car is really good on tarmac. We have a good set-up and the suspension is perfect.

“Obviously we can improve and get the car better and better but this weekend it was okay. We shall now work a lot to try and beat Citroen as well. I tried to push hard on the Power Stage and it was great to be third, but I didn't want to take any risks. The mechanics have worked really hard and not made any mistakes so I hope to spend some time with them tonight.”

Further back, behind Sordo and Hirvonen, Citroen privateer Petter Solberg got the better of Kris Meeke, in the other MINI WRT John Cooper Works WRC car, in the battle for fifth. Meeke had been in front going into Sunday's final leg, but an error in SS16 saw him slip back and the Brit then suffered further disappointment when he had to retire in SS18 after losing all power.

“Tyre choice here was like a lottery,” Petter remarked. “The works teams are so fast that it is difficult for a privateer [like myself] to make it onto the podium.”

F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top six, albeit more than 3.5 minutes adrift in his ICE 1 Racing-run Citroen DS3 WRC. The Finn had a somewhat mixed event, but still managed to post 13 top-ten times - his best a fifth in Panzerplatte 2 on Saturday.

“Overall, I made a lot of mistakes during the weekend,” said Kimi. “I feel I wasn't quick enough due to these errors. It was a complicated rally. I learned a lot especially not to put the tyres just anywhere! Last year we could cross the pavements without problems. With the new tyres it's not possible as our puncture in the Power Stage proved.”

M-Sport Stobart's Henning Solberg was next up and he closed right up on Raikkonen during the last leg, eventually finishing 21.3 seconds back: “This was a difficult rally. We had many problems. But now we are on a good level on tarmac,” stated the Norwegian.

Behind, Armindo Araujo gave MINI a further boost by securing eighth in his Motorsport Italia-run John Cooper Works WRC car, with Peter van Merksteijn Jr ninth in his DS3 WRC, an encouraging weekend for the youngster after that big crash in Greece and four retirements in succession.

Dennis Kuipers completed the points' scorers in tenth, ahead of Britain's Matthew Wilson and runaway SWRC winner, Ott Tanak.

Tanak took the Super 2000 class comfortably, over 5 minutes up on Nasser Al-Attiyah. Frigyes Turan was third.

Of the rest, Ford Abu Dhabi WRT's Jari-Matti Latvala was 14th after a catalogue of problems, ahead of Monster WRT man and Gymkhana star Ken Block in 17th and M-Sport Stobart 'guest' runner Aaron Burkart in 23rd.

There were a number retirements, most noticeably in addition to Meeke, M-Sport Stobart's Mads Ostberg. He crashed out this morning in SS16. However he was already running way down the order, after damaging his cars suspension in SS3 on Friday and losing more than 8 minutes. He also had more issues on Saturday with two punctures in the final two stages.

The WRC now heads 'down under' next, with Rally Australia taking place from September 8-11.


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