26 March 2006
Loeb takes sombre Spanish win.
Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb won the Rally Catalunya-Costa Daurada on Sunday, to take his second Spanish win in succession, although it was a sombre victory following the death of Aaron Burkart's co-driver, Jorg Bastuck on Friday.
Bastuck lost his life after a tragic accident on SS2. Burkart and Bastuck had gone off the road in their Citroen C2 during the first run of the El Montmell stage. While neither were injured in the incident itself, Bastuck was later hit by the Ford Fiesta of Barry Clark and Scott Martin, which left the road at the same place, striking the German as he was changing a wheel on the car. The 36-year-old was airlifted to hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries. As a mark of respect, there were no celebrations at the finish in Salou.
Loeb took the lead towards the end of the opening leg, after early pace setter, Marcus Gronholm lost time with a turbo problem, something that dropped him down the pack. After that the Frenchman was never really troubled and his only minor scare came on SS10 on Saturday, when he hit a rock and damaged the steering on his Xsara.
In the end Loeb took the victory by nearly 50 seconds, to strengthen his position at the top of the drivers' championship, after going in front following his win in Mexico earlier this month. Indeed his victory wasn't only his second on the trot in Spain - but it was also his second in a row this season and the second ever for Kronos, who also took their first ever 1-2 result, thanks to Daniel Sordo.
Sordo was impressive all weekend and never put a foot wrong in the 'third' Kronos ran Xsara. The young Spaniard was consistently 'there or there abouts' on only his fourth outing in a WRC car and his first on asphalt and deservedly took his first podium finish at the 'senior' level. The fact he took the stage win on SS10 on Saturday, was just the icing on the cake.
Gronholm meanwhile, after going so well early on, and looking likely to win, had to settle for third. The Finn lost around 2-3 minutes following his turbo issues at the end of leg 1, something that dropped him from first to tenth on the leaderboard. However he put in a charge on day two and day three finally getting back into the top three on SS14, when he went in front of Alex Bengue. The Ford driver ended the event with 10 fastest stages time out of a possible 16, while Loeb took five.
Peugeot privateer, Alex Bengue shined in his 307, despite losing out on third, he ended the event around 15 seconds behind Gronholm and nearly a minute up on Jan Kopecky, who was fifth in his Czech Rally Team ran Skoda Fabia WRC.
Francois Duval was next up, also in a Fabia, although his car is looked after by First Motorsport. The Belgian had a good weekend and despite brakes problems, even managed to set a joint quickest stage time on Saturday, when he was equal quickest with Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen through SS7.
Subaru duo, Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin came in seventh and eighth, after a tough event for the Banbury based squad. Neither driver was especially happy with the handling on the Impreza during leg one and two, although Solberg felt that they did made some progress today.
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