Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has claimed his first victory in the FIA World Rally Championship on the tenth round of this year's series, the Rallye Deutschland, which finished in Trier this [Sunday] afternoon.

The young Frenchman and navigator Daniel Elena resisted intense pressure from the reigning world champion, Richard Burns, to hang on to their overnight lead and emerge victorious by less than 20 seconds. Current series leader Marcus Gr?nholm extended his points advantage by finishing third.

Today's final leg was held on more traditional roads, less abrasive but narrower and more twisty than the Baumholder military ranges that caused such havoc among the leading crews yesterday [Saturday]. But some of the top stars still hit trouble; Harri Rovanper? retired his Peugeot with accident damage, while Carlos Sainz missed out on a potential points finish when he stalled on the start line of one stage and struggled to restart his Ford's engine.

Related Articles

The Citroen Xsara WRC of Sebastien Loeb though has been reliable and the Frenchman secured the first world championship rally win of his career. Loeb and his navigator Daniel Elena faced stiff opposition all day from the pursuing Richard Burns, but they matched the Englishman's pace on many stages and pinched back seconds where possible to keep their advantage. At one point, their cushion was axed to well under 10 seconds but by the finish, Loeb had bolstered his winning margin to around 14 seconds. The success was all the sweeter for Loeb because he was denied victory in Monte Carlo by a tyre rule infringement earlier this season.

"I'm delighted to get my first victory, of course. Monte Carlo earlier this year was not really a victory for me so this is like the first real win," said Loeb. "This is really like my home rally and there were a lot of fans around here for me, all wanting me to win. I'm pleased for them as well. Yesterday was a very difficult day - we made a few small mistakes - but we knew this morning that Richard would push so we just tried our best and it was enough."

Citroen Sport team chief Guy Frequelin added: "I'm very pleased with the performance of Sebastien and Daniel here. They were under a lot of pressure this morning but I didn't have to talk to them about their approach at all."

The other two Citroen's retired before today's final leg. Jesus Puras, a late entry replacing the injured Thomas Radstrom was the first to go, he retired in SS3 with electrical problems and Philippe Bugalski lost control of his Xsara yesterday, damaging the exhaust in the impact leading to retirement soon after.

At Peugeot the 206 WRCs of both Marcus Gr?nholm and Richard Burns have been reliable. Harri Rovanper?'s car ran without problems before he damaged it terminally in an accident in SS19.

Try as he might, Burns was unable to catch Loeb, and the reigning world champion was forced to settle for second overall. Burns felt that today's stages were more enjoyable to drive than the Baumholder ranges but the nature of the roads and the dry surfaces seemed to offer him less scope to eat into Loeb's advantage. The Englishman closed to within eight seconds at one point, but his attacked met stern resistance in the later stages and by the finish, he was over 14 seconds off the top spot.

His team-mate Marcus Gr?nholm tried to charge on the opening stage this morning in an attempt to close in on the leading duo, but he slid off the road briefly and lost a few seconds instead. He decided thereafter to settle for third overall, a result, which extended his lead in the drivers' championship and guaranteed Peugeot a maximum points score in the manufacturers' series.

The third Peugeot 206 WRC driver, Harri Rovanper?, was forced to retire from a potential top 10 placing this morning. His car lost its rear wing on the day's second stage and the resulting poor handling caught out the Finn on the following test, when he crashed out.

"I tried absolutely everything but Sebastien held on well today - congratulations to him," commented Burns. "It's been a difficult event for everyone and I think I lost a little bit too much time in a few stages yesterday. In the end, I'd say that made the difference. At least I feel on top of the 206 WRC on asphalt and I can go to Sanremo next month with even more confidence."

Team-mate Marcus Gronholm continued: "If we hadn't had our hydraulic problems on the opening day then we could have been closer to the lead battle and yes, I think I might have had a chance to win if we'd fought very hard. This morning I tried to push but we slid wide and ended up in a field at one point on the opening stage, so I realised then there was no point to take any more risks."

The Ford Focus RS WRC02 of Colin McRae has been reliable today [Sunday]. Carlos Sainz's car, however, refused to restart after the Spaniard stalled on the start line of SS17. He lost well over a minute before the engine could be coaxed back into life. Markko Martin complained of a misfire in SS19 but that aside, his car ran without major problems.

McRae started leg three with little to gain from taking risks - he was too far behind the leading three to really threaten them, and thus the Scot concentrated on making no mistakes in the closing stages. He eventually bagged fourth, albeit more than two and a half minutes behind third-placed Gr?nholm.

His team-mate Carlos Sainz lost time on this morning's opening stage, when he stalled on the start line. His car crept forward on its starter motor and broke the timing beam, but it refused to fire back into life for around a minute and a half. The Spaniard dropped to the bottom of the top ten as a result, although he fought back to eighth by the finish. The third Focus WRC driver, Markko Martin, finished sixth overall after fending off a determined late charge from Tommi M?kinen in this afternoon's tests.

Colin McRae said: "There was nothing we could do today but then, it's been like that for most of the event. The championship's looking pretty far off now - I think Sanremo will be a hard event for us next month as well and if Peugeot is as quick in New Zealand and Australia as it was in Finland, then I think we'll have a job to match their pace there as well. It's frustrating, because we've improved, but if anything we seem further behind the French cars on asphalt."

Over at Mitsubishi the Lancer Evo WRC2 of Francois Delecour has had no problems. Delecour felt that his Lancer was less suited to the dry conditions and narrower roads that it faced today, and he was unable to repeat the sort of form that had taken him up the leaderboard yesterday. The Frenchman eventually finished in ninth, although that was good enough to score a single manufacturers' point for Mitsubishi. He lost time in the day's opening stage after he was stopped by marshals at the scene of Armin Kremer's accident, but event officials later allocated Delecour a 'notional' time that better reflected his likely performance.

Delecour said: "We can see very clearly that the car is good on the wider roads when we can really attack, but when it's narrow and dry it's still difficult. We need to do a lot of work before Sanremo but the engineers have taken some ideas away from here and hopefully some of them can be introduced before that event."

His team-mate Alister McRae went out on Friday, turbo problems ending his rally after SS6.

Subaru entered four Impreza WRC2002's but only Tommi Makinen made the finish. M?kinen had been in much improved form since he reverted to an older car set-up yesterday and that trend continued until the last stage this afternoon. The Finn's charge wasn't quite enough to earn him a drivers championship point - he finished just over six seconds behind sixth-placed Markko Martin - but his efforts did earn two manufacturers' points for Subaru.

Tommi M?kinen noted: "It's been a very difficult event for us. We didn't have a good feeling with the car on Friday and the handbrake problem was a bad start. Yesterday we definitely improved the set-up of the car and since then, I've concentrated on getting my confidence back and feeling comfortable with the Impreza on asphalt again. I think we've achieved that now so we can at least go to Sanremo ready to fight."

The other three Impreza's went out in leg 1 and 2. Toshi Arai was the first casualty with gearbox problems, and Petter Solberg and Achim Mortl joined him on day two, both going off the road and damaging their Impreza WRC2002's.

The sole remaining Skoda Octavia WRC of Kenneth Eriksson started today's stages outside of the top 10 and with little reason to charge, although the problems that hit Carlos Sainz and Harri Rovanper? did briefly raise the possibility of him scoring a manufacturers' point for Skoda. In the end, though, the veteran Swede finished 10th overall for the Czech manufacturer.

Kenneth Eriksson said: "We didn't really have much to gain today apart from more experience of these stages, but I'm glad that we've managed to reach the finish. We had quite a few problems and I know we could have been higher up, but this has been a tricky event for everyone."

His Skoda team-mate Matthias Kahle retired on Friday while Toni Gardemeister went out after SS14. Kahle was a victim of an electrical problem, while Gardemeister went off the road.

At least Skoda got one entry to the finish though, both Hyundai's of Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz went out on Saturday.

Team Principal David Whitehead commented: "Our initial performance clearly displayed that the Accent WRC? has the speed and agility to allow us to compete with the top teams. Sadly, Armin's horrendous accident and Freddy's minor problem has not allowed us to record what was set to be our best finish yet. The fact that Armin and Manfred suffered only minor injuries shows how strong the car is and we hope they will make a rapid recovery. As for Freddy, he is undoubtedly knocking on the door for a podium finish."

Of the other entries Belgian driver Bruno Thiry was easily the top privately-entered World Rally Car as he took his customer-specification Peugeot 206 WRC to fifth overall. But there was late heartbreak for German driver Armin Kremer, who crashed his Ford Focus WRC heavily into some crash barriers on this morning's opening stage and retired from a potential top-10 finish.

Spanish driver Daniel Sola meanwhile has won the latest round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, the Rallye Deutschland. After three varied days of competition on a mixture of narrow vineyard roads and concrete tracks normally used to train tank drivers, Sola and his navigator Alex Romani brought their Citroen Saxo to this afternoon's finish in Trier almost 40 seconds clear of the next 1600cc car and almost three minutes ahead of the next Junior WRC-registered contender, Andrea Dallavilla

Rally statistics - Leg three:

Starters: 50 crews (31 Group A and 19 Group N) restarted this morning.

Retirements: Rovanpera (FIN) and 7 other drivers

Today - Sunday 25 August: Leg 3 started from Trier at 06h30 and covered 362.89km, including 102.93km on seven special stages.

Stage by stage summary - Leg three:

SS17 Peterburg 1 (15.03kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 07.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 09.5
3. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 8m 14.0

Leaders after SS17:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 02m 35.2
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 02m 47.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 03m 12.1

SS18 St Wendeler Land (17.71kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 46.4
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 50.3
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 9m 01.0

Leaders after SS18:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 11m 25.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 11m 33.6
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 12m 13.1

SS19 Bosenburg 1 (15.82kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 7m 39.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 7m 44.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 7m 54.9

Leaders after SS19:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 19m 04.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 19m 17.8
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 20m 08.0

SS20 Peterberg 2 (15.03kms)
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 09.1
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 10.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 15.8
3. M?kinen (FIN) Subaru 8m 15.8

Leaders after SS20:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 27m 14.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 27m 26.9
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 28m 23.8

SS21 St Wendeler Land 2 (17.71kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 46.3
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 46.4
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 50.6

Leaders after SS21:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 36m 01.1
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 36m 13.2
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 37m 14.4

SS22 Bosenberg 2 (15.82kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 7m 38.9
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 7m 41.5
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 7m 44.3

Leaders after SS22:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 43m 40.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3h 43m 54.7
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3h 44m 58.7

SS23 Superspecial St Wendel 2 (5.81kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3m 36.9
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 3m 37.3
3. Gr?nholm (FIN) Peugeot 3m 37.7

Leaderboard in Trier after SS23:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 3h 47m 17.3
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot +14.3
3. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot +1m 19.1
4. C.McRae (GB) Ford +3m 45.3
5. Thiry (B) Peugeot +5m 18.8
6. Martin (EE) Ford +5m 33.0
7. Makinen (FIN) Subaru +5m 39.2
8. Sainz (E) Ford +6m 17.0
9. Delecour (F) Mitsubishi +6m 35.9
10. Eriksson (S) Skoda +13m 34.2

S1600 Leaders in Trier after SS23:
1. Sola (E) Citroen 4h 10m 39.6
2. Dallavilla (I) Citroen +2m 47.4
3. Schelle (D) Suzuki +3m 33.2
4. Baldacci (RSM)Citroen +5m 21.4
5. Rowe (GB) Ford +6m 47.8
6. Katajamaki (FIN) Volkswagen +8m 20.0

Final rally statistics:

Event: The rally covered 1445.84km, including 415.55km on 23 special stages (including 10 run twice). All stages were on asphalt and concrete roads, closed to other traffic.

Starters: 86 crews (60 Group A and 26 Group N) started the rally.

Finishers: 42 crews (25 Group A and 17 Group N) finished the rally.

Stage winners:
Gr?nholm (SS1-9-10-11-14-16)
Burns (SS1-12-18-20-21-23)
Loeb (SS2-3-4-5-6-7-8-13-15-17-19-22)

Rally leaders:
SS1 Gr?nholm & Burns
SS2 Gr?nholm
SS3-SS23, Loeb

FIA World Championships:

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (provisional standings after 10 of 14 rounds): Gr?nholm (FIN) 51, C. McRae (GB) 33, Burns (GB) 31, Sainz (E) 26, Panizzi (F) 21, Solberg (N) 19, Loeb (F) 18, Rovanper? (FIN) 18, M?kinen (FIN) 15, Martin (EE) 10, Bugalski (F) 7, Radstrom (S) 4, A. McRae (GB) 2, Gardemeister (FIN) 2, Thiry (B) 2, Eriksson (S) 1.

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (provisional standings after 10 of 14 rounds): Peugeot 115, Ford 81, Subaru 42, Skoda 8, Mitsubishi 8, Hyundai 6.

FIA Junior World Rally Championship (after 4 of 6 rounds): Sola (E) 23, Dallavilla (I) 18, Tuohino (FIN 12, Duval (B) 11, Caldani (I) 10, Schelle (D) 5, Basso (I) 4, Feghali (RL) 4, Rowe (GB) 4, Galli (I) 3, Carlsson (S) 3, Baldacci (I) 3, Doppelreiter (A) 2, Foss (N) 1, Katajamaki (FIN) 1.

FIA Production Car World Championship (after 6 of 8 rounds, this event not counting): Singh (MAL) 28, Ferreyros (PE) 20, Sohlberg (FIN) 16, Fiorio (I) 13, Arai (J) 12, Trelles (ROU) 12, Iliev (BG) 9, Rowe (GB) 5, Baldini (I) 4 De Dominicis (I) 3, Kollevold (N) 3, Harrach (A) 2, Ligato (RA) 2, Marrini (2).

Next event - September 19/22 2002: Rallye Sanremo - Rallye d'Italie, Sanremo, Italy.