With 44 World Rally Championship wins to his name Sebastien Loeb certainly has plenty to choose from when considering his 'favourite' triumphs, but today's Rally New Zealand win could well feature somewhere near the top.
Returning to the scene of where he lost out on victory in the closest end to a rally of all time in 2007, Loeb was desperate to make amends this year and looked poised to attack from third place going into the final day.
However, a spin on the first stage of the day would seemingly prove detrimental to Loeb's hopes, the ten seconds lost making it difficult for him to stay in touch. With just two stages remaining, Loeb was fourth and left with little chance to overhaul Mikko Hirvonen for the win. Then they entered Whaanga…
With Hirvonen slowing with a puncture and Jari-Matti Latvala crashing out of contention, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena leapt up into the lead of the rally, ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo. Holding his nerve through the short final stage to take victory by 17.5secs, Loeb was delighted to be on the upside of a 'nail-biting' finish this time.
"We were aware that this was probably too big a gap to bridge in normal circumstances but we never gave up, and our efforts ended up paying! It's becoming something of a tradition for the last day of this rally to produce nail-biting finishes. I am obviously delighted to have won this event which I really enjoy and which has taken me further clear at the top of the championship."
With Citroen also claiming their second consecutive 1-2 result and extending their lead to 20 points in the Manufacturers' standings, team boss Olivier Quesnel took the opportunity to hail both his drivers and the sport for its ability to provide drama right up until the end of the rally.
"It's been an exceptional weekend which has ended in a fantastic one-two for Citroën. Rallying is such an exciting sport. We never tire of saying that victory is never in the bag until the finish line has been crossed, and we saw that once again today!
“Everyone in the team responded perfectly to the way the weekend unfolded and that put our two crews in a strong position going into the last day. That in turn enabled them to push their rivals into making mistakes. Sébastien and Daniel have once again showcased their talent and their ability to cope with pressure.”