10 April 2005
Loeb triumphs in NZ on third attempt.
Citroen's number one driver, Sebastien Loeb has won the Rally New Zealand today [Sunday], securing his first win at the Auckland event in three attempts.
The Frenchman eventually took the honours by 49.8 seconds, winning the final stage of the day, after pacing himself through SS17, SS18 and SS19.
Loeb is now just one point behind Petter Solberg and well placed to defend his 2004 drivers' crown.
"I'm very happy to win here, it's one of the most exciting rallies, and to win with Marcus and Petter behind was very good," he said. "It's looking better now after having had two rallies with problems and now it seems to be good."
Marcus Gronholm took the runners-up spot, the Finn winning three out of the four tests on the final leg, to ensure he kept second for Peugeot.
"Always it seems to be difficult but at least we have kept Solberg behind and he has won rallies this year," noted Marcus. "Loeb seems to have had a small advantage with the tyres."
Petter Solberg was third, the six points enough to keep him in front of Loeb in the drivers' classification. The Norwegian, who started first on the road on Friday, never really looked likely to threaten Loeb, however then again neither did anyone else...
"It was better than I expected on the first day but obviously we have struggled on this hard surface," reflected 'Hollywood'. "I'm very happy with third place though. We have worked hard on the car since Mexico."
Francois Duval took fourth, to finally open his points account with Citroen. The Belgian has had a dismal start to the year, and he will be hoping this is a sign of better things to come. It was also good for Citroen though as they jumped from fifth in the Constructors' to second, 12 points behind leaders, Peugeot.
"For me it was a very good day," he said. "I'm happy now to finish inside the points for me and Citroen. I hope it will be good for the rest of the season."
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