Loeb: Ford will be at home and keen to profit in Norway

Sebastien Loeb has conceded that he doesn't know if he will be able to win this weekend on Rally Norway and stand in the way of Ford's Scandinavian duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Loeb began the season in the best way possible a few weeks ago, by taking a convincing victory on the rain-lashed Rally Ireland, round one in the 2009 World Rally Championship.

Now the WRC heads to Hamar though, and for once the Frenchman won't be the favourite.

Indeed the switch to snow is likely to favour his rivals and while Loeb has done well on snow in the past - winning in Sweden in 2004, as well as finishing second in 2007 and 2006, he crashed out on that event in '08 and was only 14th on the inaugural Rally Norway in '07.

"Our most recent outings on snow and ice didn't go all that well for us,” Loeb confirmed. “Jari-Matti Latvala won in Sweden last year, and victory in Norway in 2007 went to Mikko Hirvonen.

“Ford should be more at home in Norway and will be extremely keen to profit from this rally to make up for lost ground.

“I don't know yet whether I will be able to stand in their way, but it's still a very stimulating challenge.

“I do enjoy this sort of event and I have very fond memories of my win in Sweden in 2004, so perhaps adding another victory to my record in Norway isn't entirely out of the question."

While Sweden and Norway are both winter events however, Loeb warns any hasty comparisons should be avoided.

"The two rallies are very different," he explained. "The Swedish stages tend to feature long, flowing corners, whereas the terrain in Norway presents us with another sort of technical challenge.

“The roads are twisty, narrow and bumpy in places and it's quite difficult to get a feel for them."

Like Rally Ireland, Norway has only counted towards the WRC on one previous occasion and Loeb found the inaugural running of it in '07 very tough.

"The 2007 event was particularly difficult because we faced a layer of fresh snow on top of the sheet ice underneath," he continued. "I had a great deal of trouble spotting the places where the grip changed and I never really felt comfortable. I hope it won't snow this year so that we will be free to drive flat out on a nice coating of smooth ice!

“If the conditions do turn out to be like that, running first on the road could well be an advantage on the opening day."

After such a great result in Ireland though, does he still believe 2009 will be closely fought?

"There is no reason to believe that it won't be closer than last year's championship. Nobody should be tempted to come to any hasty conclusions after just one event,” he summed-up.

“With the exception of the 2006 Monte-Carlo, I have won every asphalt round since 2005, so we are clearly more at home on sealed surfaces than our rivals. But I am expecting them to respond, beginning with Rally Norway where we won't be the favourites."

Related Pictures

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Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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Chris - Unregistered

February 09, 2009 4:05 PM

Can anyone please explain why Matt Wilson isn't nominated to score M2 points for Stobart? After three years of "making progress" and "getting experience" I thought this was year he was meant to step up to the plate and start performing.

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