9 April 2006
Loeb takes French laurels again.
Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb has emerged victorious for the second year running on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse, the fifth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman led from the off on Friday and although he didn't utterly dominate it like he did last year, he was still in a class of his own and while Marcus Gronholm looked a threat early on, the Finn's challenge soon faded.
Indeed Loeb managed to win six of the events 12 stages, finally taking the victory by just under 30 seconds after pacing himself over the third and final day.
The win, his third of the season, further extends his lead at the top of the drivers' championship. He now has an 11 point advantage, with nearly a third of the season done and dusted.
Gronholm meanwhile while strong, just couldn't match the pace of the Xsara and had to settle for the runners-up spot. The Finn ended the event on a high though by winning the final two tests, to bring his total to three on the event.
Daniel Sordo hung on to take the final spot on the podium, around 10 seconds in front on Mikko Hirvonen. The Spaniard's acclimatization to a WRC car has been remarkable and following his first ever 'senior' podium in Spain two weeks ago, he has now added a second to his record. The 2005 Junior WRC champion has certainly made is mark since starting the year with the Kronos ran Xsara in Monte Carlo.
Hirvonen, while somewhat disappointed to miss out on third, was conscious of scoring manufacturers' points for BP Ford. To date his form has been a bit below par and fourth is his best result of the year.
Further down the order, Alex Bengue was fifth in his privately entered Peugeot 307. The Frenchman ended the first day third, but dropped back on Saturday due to handling problems. Nevertheless it was another solid result for the former Skoda ace.
Xavier Pons came in sixth for Kronos Citroen, combining with Loeb to give the Belgian squad 15 points from the event, which keeps them top in the manufacturers' race, 3 points ahead of Ford.
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