By Rob Wilkins.
Championship leader, Sebastien Loeb
has won the Rally of Turkey, 'cruising' to a relatively easy victory today [Sunday] during the third and final leg.
ace eventually beat Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by 26.2 seconds - to clinch his fourth win of the season, to add those achieved in Cyprus, Sweden and at Monte Carlo.
It was his first 'real' gravel win - after taking the belated honours in Cyprus following the disqualification of Gronholm - and one made even more dramatic as he arrived in the final service on three wheels, after a late scare when he hit something on the final liasion section and the impact ripped off the right rear wheel.
"We were very happy to win after the last stage," said Loeb. "Everybody said congratulations but I wasn't sure I could finish. It was a big pressure, but when we came to service, then we really knew we had won our first gravel rally."
Loeb though never really looked threatened in reality and the Frenchman, who lead practically from start-to-finish, now heads the drivers' championship by an extended margin - he has 53 points, compared to the 44 of nearest rival, Petter Solberg, who took the final podium place.
"I'm quite happy to be on the podium again," noted 'Hollywood'. "Overall I think the performance has been good. We could have done so much better if it wasn't for the first day. It's unfortunate, but that's how it is."
Gronholm meanwhile was just glad to finish, after last minute gear selection problems in the final two stages. He also had that
incident yesterday, which was a real pain in the bum for his co-driver!
"It's been a tough event and I've not been feeling very well today: maybe it was something I have eaten! At least Timo is feeling OK now after his problems yesterday," reflected Gronholm. "Generally it has not been too bad a rally for us, but the gearbox problem on the penultimate stage was a bit of a drama for us. Thanks to the advice of the engineers we were able to fix it rapidly, but we have been certainly made to work hard for our second place here!"
Carlos Sainz was fourth, despite suffering from heat exhaustion, while Francois Duval and Mikko Hirvonen, were fifth and sixth respectively, for Ford and Subaru.