5 March 2006
Loeb secures first WRC win for Kronos.
Reigning World Rally champion, Sebastien Loeb won the Corona Rally Mexico on Sunday and in doing so propelled himself into the lead in the 2006 drivers' championship.
Loeb took the lead towards the end of the second day, eventually winning by 50 seconds, after nearest rival and early leader, Petter Solberg lost time in SS13 on Saturday, with power steering problems. The Norwegian slipped further behind after that.
Loeb's win is his first this year and his first with Kronos Racing, who are running the Frenchman's Xsara WRC this season, on behalf of Citroen, who are taking a sabbatical from the sport.
Loeb won 9 of the events 17 stages, and after losing time on Friday, while he ran second on the road sweeping away the loose gravel, he bounced back on day two, jumping ahead of Solberg on SS8, before 'Hollywood' went back in front on SS9. Loeb though re-took the top spot on SS12 and after that was never really threatened, although like a number of drivers he was slowed on SS13, when a number of cows ventured onto the stage.
Solberg, however, while disappointed not to win, was relieved to finally open his points account, after problems in Sweden and Monte Carlo. Indeed Solberg and Loeb were in a class of their own, both ending the event over 4 minutes up on the next best placed driver. For the record Solberg won six stages, only two were taken by someone other than him or Loeb...
That honour fell to Manfred Stohl, who appropriately finished third, to take the final place on the podium. Although the Austrian was never really happy with the set-up on his OMV backed Peugeot 307, the result itself did give him some cause to smile.
Junior World Rally champion, Daniel Sordo took fourth, around 50 seconds behind in his 2005 spec Xsara. The Spaniard was again impressive, especially as this was his first ever event on gravel with a World Rally Car. Indeed Sordo will stick with the Xsara in Spain, rather than contesting the JWRC with the Citroen C2, as originally planned.
Henning Solberg was fifth, despite suffering from brake problems throughout the event. The Norwegian ended the event over 10 minutes off the lead and over 5 minutes behind his OMV Peugeot Norway WRT team-mate, Stohl.
Gareth MacHale was sixth in a privately entered Focus, with Chris Atkinson and Marcus Gronholm completing the points' scorers, both having re-started Saturday under the SupeRally format after crashing out on day one.
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