Somewhat appropriately in the year that marks the French car maker's 90th anniversary, the Citroën Total World Rally Team sealed its fifth WRC manufacturers' crown as Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo claimed a one-two finish for the third time in 2009 on Rally Catalunya at the weekend.
Loeb recorded his sixth win of the year as he finished exactly twelve seconds ahead of team-mate Sordo, to close to within a single point of Ford rival Mikko Hirvonen in the hotly-fought tussle for the drivers' laurels – what would mark, should the Frenchman successfully lift them, his sixth straight championship success.
In front of huge Spanish crowds, home favourite Sordo kicked off the last day with the best time on SS13 (Riudecanyes), before record-breaking five-time World Rally Champion Loeb assumed control of the timesheets on the short La Serra d'Almos test (SS15) to be 2.3 seconds ahead by the day's first service area in Salou. That margin would be almost six times greater by the time the cars crossed the finish line.
In collecting a staggering 53rd career triumph, the WRC legend commented: “It was important to come first and second here, not only to wrap up the manufacturers' championship but also to keep our chances very much alive for the drivers' title. I was above all concentrating on not cutting the corners so as to reduce the risk of puncturing; there was no point in trying to gain a few tenths of a second when there was not really any need.
“Everyone did a great job this weekend and both cars ran perfectly. I would like to thank Dani, too, for playing his part as team-mate to the letter. Had the stakes not been so important this weekend, I am sure the spectators would have treated to a terrific scrap.”
“I am proud to have contributed to yet another world title for Citroën,” added Sordo. “This title is the result of a real team effort. You cannot disassociate the engineers, mechanics and everyone in the squad from this success.”
After pacing 17 of the weekend's 18 stages courtesy of Loeb (five), Sordo (six), Sébastien Ogier (two) and Petter Solberg (four), Citroën Racing director Olivier Quesnel acknowledged that Loeb can now compete in Wales without the added pressure of needing to clinch the manufacturers' honours into the bargain.
“This result has allowed us to tick the first box of our 2009 wish list by making sure of winning the
manufacturers' title,” underlined Quesnel. “Thanks to Dani and Marc's magnificent support, Seb and Daniel will now be able to focus on just one thing on Rally GB – and that will be to finish ahead of Mikko Hirvonen to try to win a sixth drivers' title. I also want to congratulate Petter Solberg and Sébastien Ogier on their solid performances here in Spain.”
Solberg came in fourth on his debut with the team – just over a minute down on Loeb – with Ogier a further half minute in arrears again in fifth.