26 June 2005
Five in a row for Loeb as he wins the Acropolis.
Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb took another step closer to retaining his title today in Greece, when he chalked up a record fifth win in succession.
The Frenchman once again dominated - after winning in NZ, Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey - and despite starting first on the road on Friday, ended the first leg of the Acropolis Rally on top, after storming through the final test. Saturday saw him lay down the gauntlet - winning all eight tests, and after Marcus Gronholm, his only real challenger suffered from transmission problems in SS13, he ended the second leg with a healthy 1 minute 25 second lead.
Today the Citroen ace looked unstoppable and another stage win brought his tally to 12 out of a possible 19.
Loeb now has 23 points in hand over his nearest rival in the drivers' championship, Petter Solberg, who failed to score.
"Five wins in a row? It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Loeb at the finish. "All I know for the moment is that thanks to the team's efforts to give us perfect cars and also thanks to Michelin, this rally has been extremely positive in view of both title chases. We know we're not invincible and this winning run will come to an end one day but, if we want to extend it, we cannot afford to relax and next week we will be back out testing."
Ford team leader, Toni Gardemeister secured the runners-up spot, to take his third podium this year, and equal his best result to date. The Finn has now set his sights on securing a win.
"We've had no big problems and the whole weekend has gone well," noted Toni. "We've pushed hard from the very first kilometre. It's hard to fight against someone as experienced as Carlos but we did it. The Focus has worked well, Michelin's tyres have been excellent and now we have to try to turn second place into a win in the second half of the season."
Carlos Sainz was third place in what looks certain to be his final appearance in WRC. It was his 97th podium from 196 starts and it also helped Citroen to leap-frog Peugeot in the Constructors' championship, where they now lead by 5 points.
"It's been a fantastic weekend," said the Spaniard. "I am proud to have succeeded in meeting the objective [Citroen boss] Guy [Frequelin] set me, and proud to have scored valuable points in both events. The team is back on top of the championship and I hope it will stay there. They deserve it. As for me, I have finished my career in world class rallying on the podium of the event that gave me my first WRC win. What more could a sportsman ask for?"
Marcus Gronholm meanwhile was next up in fourth, the Finn to far behind Gardemeister and Sainz after his problems on leg 2 and while Mikko Hirvonen, was quickest in the final two tests, the double world champion, never really looked likely to lose his spot.
"There was nothing we could do today," he commented. "So I thought it was best just to bring the car home and make sure of the points. The roads were very rough and extremely dusty. It's been a disappointing rally as we were leading for most of the first day and we would have had a chance to challenge for the win."
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