22 August 2004
Loeb wins third consecutive Rallye Deutschland.
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has won the Rallye Deutschland for the third consecutive year today [Sunday], dominating the event.
Loeb, who led from SS2 onwards, made no mistakes and set seven fastest stages times.
The Frenchman has now extended his lead at the top of the drivers' championship, increasing his advantage from 22 points, to 29.
"Winning for the third time so close to my home is just great," he reflected. "This result is very important for the world championship. Because of the adverse weather conditions, it was a very, very difficult rally."
Francois Duval was second, for Ford, only 29.1 seconds behind, and although he kept charging throughout today's final seven tests, the margin at the start - nearly 1 minute – was just to much to overhaul. The Belgian though was still delighted at the finish.
"This was my best ever drive," he commented. "I've really enjoyed the weekend because the weather and roads were so similar to rallies at home in Belgium. The conditions were very difficult but I've learned a lot and made big progress here. I pushed hard today and I really believe I could have won if it had not been for our time loss on Friday."
Carlos Sainz meanwhile was third, to complete the podium, in the second Xsara, while Ford's Markko Martin was fourth.
"Today was OK but the roads were tricky and our emphasis was on surviving," stated Martin. "Many corners were quite muddy and damp under the trees and I pushed just enough to keep ahead of Robert. There was no point in taking risks. It hasn't been a particularly enjoyable weekend because the conditions have been so hard and I'm just glad to see the finish."
Peugeot duo, Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix completed the top six, the former shining on his full debut for the French manufacturer, while the latter was back in action after last competing in February in Sweden.
"It's been a fantastic experience," commented Robert. "To be in a top car competing against the world's best drivers is always a privilege. I started the rally with a degree of caution, because I wanted to be sure of seeing the finish. But I think we chose the right compromise between speed and safety, and I'm delighted to get this result."
The final points scoring positions went to Skoda's Toni Gardemeister and Subaru's Mikko Hirvonen, in seventh and eighth respectively. Hirvonen was just happy to finish.
"It's been a challenging event due to the difficult conditions," said Hirvonen. "Following a poor tyre choice this morning, we were pleased to make up time this afternoon, when I was happier with the tyres I selected, giving me both Manufacturers' and Drivers' points. When I'm on the right tyres, my confidence in the car is really good. However, when conditions are poor and I'm not 100 per cent sure on the tyres, I struggle a bit."
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