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Mexico - day 3: Three in a row for Loeb

2 March 2008


Citroen's Sebastien Loeb took the victory on the Corona Rally Mexico for the third time in as many years on Sunday, when he brought his C4 WRC car to the finish in P1.

Loeb however didn't have it easy and Jari-Matti Latvala, fresh from his maiden win in Sweden last month, made him work for it.

Early on it was the Finn that took the initiative and he grabbed the lead in the very first stage and finished the first loop on Friday 4.4 seconds in front. Seb then slipped further back in the afternoon and at the end of the opening day was 9.6 seconds adrift.

On Saturday however the momentum swung the other way and with Latvala running first on the road and having to sweep away the loose gravel, Seb pounced cutting the margin to just 0.1 seconds in SS9, the first stage of the leg.

The Frenchman then went in front in SS10 and pulled further and further ahead. He had a 12.9 seconds cushion post-SS12.

SS13 ended up being the turning point however and when Latvala lost time with a broken turbo charge pipe - something that cost him over a minute in Duarte 2 and another minute in SS14 - Seb was all but assured of the win.

The four-time world champion then just paced himself through the short final day, which ended up being even shorter, after SS18, the 22.30 kilometre-run through Guanajuatito was cancelled due to the volume of spectators.

Loeb eventually won, to replicate the victories he achieved in Mexico in 2007 and 2006, by just over a minute. The result puts him back within touching distance of Mikko Hirvonen in the race for the 2008 drivers' title, with just one point now between them.

Chris Atkinson took the runners-up spot for Subaru, the highest finish he has ever managed in the WRC - and only the third time he has gotten onto the rostrum. The Aussie ran in the top three throughout and in the end was justly rewarded for his consistency. He had a problem with the intercom on day 1 and with the clutch towards the end of day 2, but other than that he enjoyed a relatively trouble-free event.

Latvala meanwhile had to settle for third, after having lost too much time on Saturday with that mechanical problem. It was a real shame for the Finn especially considering how he had managed to edge away from Seb on the first leg. He still took third though and that was quite a good consolation, especially as that was his pre-event target.

Further down the order Hirvonen re-took fourth in the penultimate stage when Henning Solberg lost 4-5 seconds with a puncture. Mikko himself had lost the place on Saturday when he had a double puncture in SS12 and dropped around 2.5 minutes.

Fifth for Henning wasn't too bad as it opens his account for the year and gives the Munchi's Ford WRT, who he was nominated for here, a good start to the year. Indeed combined with Federico Villagra's seventh place the Argentine squad gets six points from its first of ten events.

Henning's event was not easy though and he ended up losing more time in the very last stage when he had a damper problem.

Fellow Ford runner Matthew Wilson split the two Munchi's drivers in sixth and the Englishman put in a good performance in the #8 Stobart Ford Focus.

Indeed despite losing around a minute on day 1, when he was held up in the dust of fellow WRC runner, Toni Gardemeister, he ended the day in seventh. He then gained another place on the second leg, even though he was slowed slightly when he hit a dog in SS11 and had a stone thrown at his windscreen in SS13.

Ricardo Trivino rounded out the top eight in his privately entered Peugeot 206 WRC, to give the home fans something to cheer about.

In the FIA Junior World Rally Championship category Sebastien Ogier took a dominant victory having led from start to finish in his Citroen C2 S1600.

The Frenchman won seven of the eight stages on the opening day and after that never looked back. He eventually beat Jaan Molder by around 1.5 minutes - a great performance on what was his first ever WRC event. He also finished ninth overall.

Molder's Suzuki Swift team-mate, Michal Kosciuszko rounded out the JWRC podium, another 1.5 minutes adrift, while Aaron Burkart and Patrik Sandell came in fourth and fifth.

Of the rest, Petter Solberg finished just outside the top ten after he was forced out on Saturday morning due to a driveshaft problem. 'Hollywood' had been running in fourth. He re-started under the SupeRally on Sunday and eventually took P12 and the final manufacturers' point.

Daniel Sordo also finished thanks to the SupeRally. The Spaniard went out in the very first stage when he damaged the suspension on his C4 WRC. He finished a bit further down than Petter - in 17th, one spot behind Conrad Rautenbach, who also rejoined the fold on day 2 and who was using his privately entered C4 WRC car for the first time this weekend.

In terms of retirements three 'works' drivers failed to finish, namely Suzuki duo Per-Gunnar Andersson and Toni Gardemeister and Stobart Ford's Gigi Galli.

P-G and Gardemeister retired early on day 1, both with engine problems, while Galli also had problems on the opening day, when he broke his suspension in SS4. The incident left the rollcage on his Focus slightly damaged and meant he couldn't re-start.

The FIA World Rally Championship now stays in the Americas and heads south to Argentina in four weeks time, for the fourth round in the championship, which runs from March 28-30.


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