Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has paid homage to Jari-Matti Latvala after the Finn took a resounding victory on Rally GB.
Loeb went to Wales, the tenth round in the 2012 World Rally Championship, on the back of five successive wins, but he was unable to match Latvala throughout the three-days and in the end he finished almost 30 seconds adrift. The Frenchman did, however, still end up 'best of the rest', and after making some set-up changes on Saturday night, he charged back to beat the second works Ford of Petter Solberg on day three, eventually pipping the Norwegian to second by just 0.9 seconds.
“I am pleased to have held onto second place [especially as Petter and I were split by just 0.1 seconds going into the final test]. It reflects the real progress we've made today,” Loeb said at the finish. “As I often say, nothing should be taken for granted. Sometimes, winning comes down to sheer hard work.
“We completely changed the set-up during Saturday evening's service period. Broadly speaking, we adopted the solutions which worked well in New Zealand and we found better performance again on roads which have been offering more grip than on the first two days. This weekend though, Jari-Matti was the best, and I'd like to congratulate him on his perfect rally.”
Loeb meanwhile described the battle with Solberg as 'incredible': “It was really a great battle with Petter all the weekend because he started very quickly on Friday, then we were just behind. We started to battle together and then suddenly Jari-Matti woke up and he left us where we were. He was very fast, he took the lead and still I was fighting with Petter.
“On Saturday my goal was to try and catch Petter and we couldn't make it. We were really fast in the morning, the car was going very well and the feeling was really good. But always in the afternoon we were losing some time and I don't have really the reason why. It was a hard weekend for us. We tried different settings and today was essentially a bit better.
“But it was really enjoyable to start the last stage with a tenth of a second lead [over Petter]; it was really exciting and so we had to fight until the last corner. We were pushing very hard. I had a little moment in the last corner of the last stage. It was a really hard battle and, as I said, we had to push really hard.”
Pressed on why he wasn't unable to dominate, like he has done on some many events, Loeb added that you can't always win: “You cannot win every time. It shows that it's not so easy as sometimes people imagine,” he continued. “Every victory I had this year was really a good battle, we had to fight for it. It was always some very little gaps and fighting until the end of the rallies. It's not easy and this time it didn't work like we wanted. Jari-Matti was really very fast, he was flying in the stages and so we had no chance. Personally speaking, however, I have to be pleased with the twenty points I have scored here. In terms of the title, it's a good result.”
Loeb now enjoys a 61 point lead in the drivers' championship and only his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen can mathematically stop him from taking his ninth drivers' title in France next month.