Sebastien Loeb bounced back on the Rally d'Italia Sardegna this weekend, the sixth round in the 2008 World Rally Championship, and notched up his fourth win of the year and the 40th of his career.
Loeb grabbed the lead on the second stage on Friday and then proceeded to build a 22.5 second lead, with two quickest times in succession in Crastazza 1 and Terranova 1. The Frenchman then pulled further ahead on the repeat loop and finished day one with a 35.7 second cushion.
Saturday however, was a far tougher day for the four-time world champion and while he still managed to increase his overnight lead in the morning - up to 42 seconds heading into the mid-day halt - he was struggling running first on the road and having to sweep away the loose gravel.
In the afternoon he was again off the pace and with BP Ford
Abu Dhabi WRT duo Jari-Matti Latvala
and Mikko Hirvonen
on a charge, Seb saw his lead cut to 29.4 seconds.
The final day was a similar situation and Loeb was 10 seconds off the pace in SS13 and finished the opening stage of the day with his lead down to 19.1 seconds. The Citroen
#1 responded in SS14 though, and then held on through the repeat loop and the short super special to take the victory by 10.6 seconds.
The result took his total number of WRC wins to 40 and moves him within 3 points of re-taking top spot in the race for the 2008 drivers' title.
"Our 40th WRC win was certainly hard work," he reflected. "The weekend was very frustrating at times, especially because of all the 'road sweeping' that had to be done, but we managed to hold on to a big enough lead to finish on top.
"Not to have won would have been a huge disappointment, so I'm very happy. The weekend showed once again that our car is competitive over this sort of terrain, and that's encouraging for the coming rounds."
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile had to settle for the runners-up spot, backing off in the second stage on Sunday after a minor scare. Second was enough though to ensure he retains the lead in the drivers' championship.