Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
won the eleventh round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship in Sanremo this afternoon.
The Frenchman enjoyed an untroubled run through the final leg of the event to move his Citroen
Xsara WRC to within two points of championship leader Richard Burns, who finished seventh.
The weather played a big part today's action, with the final leg starting with further dry conditions, but as the crews returned to that loop after lunch it started to rain heavily.
Peugeot won and lost in the downpour with third-placed man Marcus Gronholm crashing his 206 WRC out of the rally on the final stage. His team-mate Gilles Panizzi was the only driver of the leading bunch to go out on intermediate tyres. The triple Sanremo winner rocketed up the leaderboard leapfrogging his way from fifth to second, taking close to two minutes out of Loeb in the process.
Ford's Markko Martin finished third, having run in second place for most of the last two days.
Loeb's success means that Citroen
now leads the manufacturers' standings by four points from Peugeot, with Subaru 49 points adrift in third place.
Xsara WRCs of Loeb and Sainz were reliable through the final day. Colin McRae's car suffered a hydraulic problem towards the end of the final test.
Loeb remained calm through the final two stages to maintain his statues as leader. Running on racing tyres, there was little the Frenchman could do to stave off the onset of his countryman Panizzi, but he kept his Xsara in the middle of the road to take his third win of the season.
Sainz retained his fourth place, despite Panizzi passing him, courtesy of Gronholm's retirement. The Spaniard admitted he wasn't feeling too well today, a result of the kidney stones problems which he'd suffered earlier in the week. McRae also moved up one position today, but otherwise the Scot reported no problems on any of the day's four stages.
"I was very worried when the rain was coming," said Loeb. "I knew that Markko was only 40 seconds behind and I knew that it was also going to be exceptionally difficult to drive the stages on the slick tyres we were using. It was hard work with so much water around, but we made it to the finish and to the win, which is a great result for us and for the team."
Sainz noted: "It looked okay to keep Gilles behind this morning, the gap was quite big – but then the rain came and we were on the wrong tyres. There was nothing we could do to stop him from passing us. We had some moments on those stages, the roads were very slippery in places."