Sebastien Loeb has predicted that the battle for the 2011 WRC drivers' title will go right to the wire.
Loeb extended his lead in the driver championship following his impressive victory in Sardinia earlier this month. However with only seven points between him and arch rival, Mikko Hirvonen, the Frenchman is by no means getting carried away.
“This season will be hotly contested right until the very end,” confirmed the Citroen man in the countdown to next week's Rally Argentina, the sixth round in the 2011 World Rally Championship.
“All the rallies are very closely fought. In Sardinia, we won by around ten seconds from Mikko Hirvonen. The gap between Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala in Jordan was only two-tenths of a second! It's hard to predict how things are going to pan out in the coming months.
“It's good to be in the lead, but it is early days yet. There are many victory contenders. But I have to say I don't think about all this very much when I'm behind the steering wheel, I just try to do my best.”
Loeb has a great record in Argentina and has won the last five WRC events there, taking victories in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005. Unsurprisingly then he is looking forward to going back.
“Rally Argentina has got an ambience unlike any other,” he continued. “The Argentinean spectators are mad about rallying. They're very warm, very demonstrative and really participate in the event. There are people everywhere, from the hotel to the summits of the stages.
“We've got a good record in this rally, which I can't really explain. The route's very varied. Some stages alternate technical portions and quicker ones. Maybe I've just been a bit more successful than my rivals over the past few years. For sure, I feel good here!”
“Our results [this season though] are the fruit of the whole team's work,” he added. “It's a good sign to see that the Citroen DS3 WRCs seem to have a slight advantage on gravel, but the gaps are tiny at the end of each rally. We'll have to be quick right from the start, and go pedal to the metal till the end as with a stage of 48 kilometres to start the last day, there's no question of letting up.”
Team-mate Sebastien Ogier meanwhile will also be determined to win, and while he has only been to Argentina once - finishing 7th in 2009 - he won't let this slow him too much.
“We're coming here with much greater ambitions than two years ago,” Ogier noted. “The route's fantastic and very varied. You have to have very accurate notes as certain passages are very narrow with big stones on the edge of the line like Mina Clavero and El Condor. Others are more sandy but bumpy as always.
“We're aiming for the best possible result. We're going try and score good points and close the gap to the leaders.”