Multiple World Rally champion, Sebastien Loeb
took his first victory in over four months today, when he triumphed on the all-new Rally Australia, the tenth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.
Loeb finished the opening day in third place, behind early leader Jari-Matti Latvala
and fellow countryman, Sebastien Ogier.
On Saturday though, he quickly moved up to second, before grabbing the top spot in the afternoon. The Frenchman then pulled further ahead in SS22 and built an 11.1 second cushion, before purposely easing off in the next test to ensure he wouldn't have to run first on the road on Sunday and sweep away the loose gravel.
Going into the final day - the longest of the event - just 0.1 seconds separated the top three, with Dani Sordo fractionally in front of both Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen, who finished Saturday's action tied for second.
Loeb powered his Citroen
into P1 straight away this morning however, and he then eased ahead eventually taking the victory by 12.5 seconds.
It was sixth win of the season, but more significantly his first maximum points haul since the Rally Argentina at the end of April. He will now go to the Rally de Espana next month, trailing Hirvonen by just 1 point in the race for the 2009 WRC drivers' crown.
"I am really happy," Loeb reflected. "It has been a long time and it is really good to win again. I know some people think I'm not good at new rallies, but I don't know why.
"This rally turned out to be long and tough. The variety of the stages and the speed of our rivals kept us on our toes from start to finish. This result is particularly important in terms of the championship. It has brought us back to within just one point of Mikko and we will be looking to regain the lead in Spain."
Hirvonen meanwhile wasn't too disappointed with second, especially as he had to play the 'road sweeper' on day one and day three. Indeed despite coming under pressure from Dani Sordo today, the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi #1 made sure he took the runners-up spot by setting the pace in the final test.
"It was a tough weekend, but one hell of a fight for victory," Hirvonen reflected. "I drove flat out from start to finish and the key factor in the final result was when I had to run first in the start order today. I felt trapped by that and if Loeb had been in that position rather than me, then the outcome could have been different.
"I wanted to outscore him here but the championship is still wide open with just two rounds remaining in Spain and Britain."