Sébastien Loeb is adamant that his unexpected success on Rally Finland last month will not in any way alter his approach to the final five outings of the 2011 World Rally Championship campaign – as he bids to make it an incredible nine victories on-the-bounce in Germany this weekend.
Loeb got the better of Ford's two local heroes Jari-Matti Latvala
and Mikko Hirvonen
in Finland just over a fortnight ago to tally his second victory in the country – and with it, establish clear air between himself and his pursuers in the title standings as he chases an extraordinary eighth consecutive drivers' crown this season.
Citroën has prevailed on the last seven rallies in swift succession in 2011 – a 'first' in the World Rally Championship – and having been unbeaten on gravel this year, Loeb is now eager to prove that the new DS3 WRC is every bit as potent on tarmac. In its eight previous editions on the WRC calendar since 2002, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena have never once been defeated on Rallye Deutschland. Should the pair triumph again this time around, it would make Citroën the 'winningest' manufacturer in WRC history.
“There are still five events left to run and a lot of points up for grabs,” stressed the Frenchman, who now heads Hirvonen by 27 points in the championship table. “My win in Finland was one of the greatest of my career after a battle that lasted three days. It's true that my aim was not to lose too many points on this difficult terrain to stay in the lead in the world championship before the first event on tarmac. I suppose you could say that we achieved this objective!
“Overall, it was a pretty good result, but it hasn't modified our strategy for the end of the season – we still have to score as many points as possible on each rally, and I know that everybody will be gunning for me in Germany. We've never been beaten on these roads, but I know this series will come to an end one day. It's up to us to make sure it doesn't!
“The competition is getting stronger-and-stronger. This year there's a new, unknown factor with the arrival of new WRCs on asphalt. Despite all this, I'm feeling pretty confident. I love Rally Germany – it's a very special event for me. My fans have always given me fantastic backing, and it's here that I scored my first world championship victory.
“Tarmac is a surface on which we've enjoyed a lot of success, and the Citroën DS3 WRC was very quick during testing. In relation to what we experienced before, it is a bit more reactive. Its handling and balance are very good. The central self-adjusting differential has been banned by the new regulations, but the car runs very well without the help of electronics. The Michelin tyres are different to the ones we had in previous years, and we ran through a wide range of set-ups to find the right ones.
“None of the sectors is alike [in Germany]; there are three very distinct parts with the military camp, the vines and the country roads. Generally speaking, the stages are very quick and demanding. We're up against a real challenge. It's vital to have good notes and to be in perfect osmosis with your co-driver to win. We know our rivals have also done a lot of work, but we're ready for them!”