Crash.Net WRC News
Loeb wins in Spain, titles for Citroen, Sordo
30 October 2005
Sebastien duly completed three safe stages to wrap up his tenth win of the WRC season on Rally Catalunya, but the day's major honours went the way of Citroen, which clinched the manufacturers' title and Daniel Sordo, who took the JWRC crown in style by winning the class on home soil.
With a near one minute lead going in to the final day, Loeb won the opening test at Colldejou before throttling back and cruising to the event win over the final two stages. With Citroen team-mate Francois Duval doing likewise to ensure a 1-2 with which to celebrate the teams' title, the rest of the field was allowed to battle over stage honours, with Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen coming out on top on SS14 and SS15 respectively.
If Loeb was under instruction to take no chances over the final 60km or so, he didn't show it on the first of the day's stages, winning the repeat run over Colldejou by 7.6secs, finally taking his overall advantage past a minute as team-mate Duval posted his lowest placing in 48 hours. Roman Kresta took second spot, ahead of Ford team-mate Toni Gardemeister, while the recovering Solberg, Hirvonen, Xavier Pons, Antony Warmbold and Chris Atkinson all finished faster than the Belgian. Nicolas Bernardi, in the remaining Peugeot following Marcus Gronholm's retirement, completed the top ten.
Sordo deferred to Citroen team-mate Kris Meeke on the day's opening stage, but continued to extend his already lengthy advantage over closest JWRC rival Kosti Katajamaki, who could only manage fourth in the best remaining Suzuki.
SS14 finally provided Solberg with some solace after his early exit on day one. Edging up both the stage times and the overall leaderboard through day two, the Norwegian finally earned himself one test after beating Hirvonen by 4.8secs on the return to Riudecanyes. Loeb, meanwhile, showed the first sign of easing off, dropping to fourth fastest behind privateer Pons, with Loeb next up in fifth. Both Citroens were seven seconds off the pace, but remained comfortably in front overall.
For the second stage in a row, Hirvonen managed to get the better of Pons, his rival for third place overall, and closed to within seven seconds of the Spaniard with one test to go. The Ford privateer had been third after Saturday's final stage, but succumbed to a 20-second penalty after changing the oil pump at the evening's service.
Kopecky underlined his desire to claim a first driver's point by posting the sixth best mark of the 11km stage, pushing his Fabia WRC ahead of Kresta and Bernardi. Chris Atkinson tied the Frenchman for ninth overall, but there was another blow for the second works Ford of Gardemeister, which dropped another four minutes in the Finn's quest to regain at least the top ten.
Sordo topped the JWRC entries this time around, edging Meek by three seconds, but Katajamaki could again manage no better than fourth in class. With Baldacci again getting the better of the Suzuki driver, the battle for JWRC runner-up remained open, although the Italian would need to top his Finnish rival by more than 35 seconds if he was to take the position on the final run.
If the junior battle was destined to change little, the scrap for third place overall was well and truly on heading to Vilaplana for the final stage. With all on the line, Hirvonen and Pons again proved inseparable in the order, but the Finn's fastest time on the final run was enough to lift him on to the podium at the expense of the Citroen privateer - and the French marque's bid to whitewash the podium.
Pons was comfortable in fourth, with Ford works driver Roman Kresta the best part of a minute adrift, and the Czech's fifth place on stage - behind both Solberg and team-mate Gardemeister - wasn't going to make a dent in the Spaniard's cushion. Likewise, Solberg and Gardemeister needed more, much more, if they were going to add to their personal tallies, but, such was the retirement list among the manufacturer entries that 13th and 14th overall proved enough for them to collect the final points for their respective teams.
Bernardi, meanwhile, handed Peugeot some welcome points after the disappointment of seeing team leader Gronholm forced out of a podium spot on the final road section of day two, the Frenchman claiming his career best result in sixth.
Another Ford privateer, Warmbold claimed two points for seventh, while Skoda's Kopecky achieved his aim of a points finish after holding off Subaru's Atkinson over the final three stages.
Having reclaimed the JWRC lead midway through day two, Sordo only had to keep his nose clean to ensure himself of the title, with main rival Guy Wilks having crashed out early on Saturday. The Spaniard duly did what was required, coming home a massive five minutes ahead of second in class Kosti Katajamaki, with mid-rally leader Mirco Baldacci claiming the final podium spot. It was Citroen team-mate Meeke who won the stage, taking seventh overall to ensure himself a share of third in points with Urmo Aava.