Kronos Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has won the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, the seventh round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, to take his fifth win in succession.

Although the Frenchman lost out on day one when he had to run first on the road, sweeping away the loose gravel, something that meant he ended the first leg more than 30 seconds off Marcus Gronholm, he inherited the lead on the second stage on Saturday, when the Ford driver hit a rock and was forced out. After that Loeb was in a class of his own and was never under any pressure, except to get the car to the finish and avoid making a mistake. At the finish he was more than 2.5 minutes up on his nearest rival, after yet another dominant display.

Loeb's only real scare came on Saturday, when he hit the same rock that claimed Gronholm, the Frenchman though suffered no damage and continued on his way, to win the event for the second year running.

Related Articles

The result further extends his lead in the drivers' championship - from 21 points to 31, while Daniel Elena, Loeb's co-driver, is now the most successful co-pilot in the history of WRC in terms of event wins, with 25 victories to his name. Loeb meanwhile is just one short of equally the record held by Carlos Sainz, who won 26 WRC events during his time in the sport.

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile took the runners-up spot, some consolation for Ford after Gronholm's demise. Hirvonen took it easy on the final day in order to make sure he took second, his best result of the season and also incidentally the best of his career to date.

Daniel Sordo and Xavier Pons gave Kronos even more to cheer about by taking third and fourth respectively, the former again shining in the Xsara and notching up his third 'senior' podium since graduating from the Junior WRC. Sordo's podium, on only his third outing with the car on gravel was remarkable, especially as he has more experience on asphalt. Pons also went well and in finishing fourth, secured 6 manufacturers' points for the Belgian team, as Sordo was not nominated. Kronos therefore increased their lead in the manufacturers', from 12 points to 20.

Further-down the order, Jussi Valimaki was fifth in his privately entered Mitsubishi, while Kristian Sohlberg took sixth, on his second WRC outing with the Red Devil Atoyle Kazaz outfit.

OMV Peugeot's Manfred Stohl ended up picking up two points in the drivers' championship, despite not being happy with his 307 for most of the event, while First Motorsport's Francois Duval took eighth and the final drivers' point, the best placed of the Skoda's.

The works Subaru's of Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson ended up ninth and tenth, after a disastrous final stage, which saw both drivers' hit problems, the former slipping from seventh to ninth after he bent a steering arm, while Atkinson lost five places after going off the road, when he missed his braking point. The impact damaged the Impreza's front-left suspension and Atkinson stopped by the side of the road. Under the FIA SupeRally regulations though, the Aussie was still classified tenth, picking up a 5 minute penalty for failing to complete the final test.

Of the other notable finishers, Gareth MacHale was just outside the top ten, ahead of fellow Ford runner, Luis-Perez Companc, who had a solid but unspectacular event in the third Stobart VK entry to take twelfth. Andrea Aigner was next up, 13th for Red Bull Skoda, while his team-mate, Harri Rovanpera was classified 20th, despite going out again on the first loop this morning.

The only other works driver to finish was Stobart VK's Matthew Wilson, who having lost so much time on day one, with suspension and ECU problems, ended the event in 34th position overall.

In total three works drivers failed to complete the event, Gronholm, as already mentioned, going out on SS8 on Saturday, when he hit a rock, while Henning Solberg and Kosti Katajamaki also retired in leg two - the former went out in SS9, when he hit a tree in his OMV Peugeot, while the latter rolled his Stobart VK Focus in SS10. Gigi Galli also failed to make it to the finish, the Italian was in contention for a podium, when he had to stop following the final stage on Saturday, after his Pirelli backed 307 had engine problems.

In the Junior World Rally Championship category, Patrik Sandell emerged victorious in his Renault Clio, over 5 minutes up on Conrad Rautenbach, who was second. Urmo Aava recovered to take the final podium place, with Per-Gunnar Andersson fourth and Aaron Burkart fifth. Guy Wilks was classified eighth in the end after he was forced out while leading on SS15. One point was little consolation for the Englishman though considering he had been comfortably in front throughout the majority of the event.

The WRC now heads to Greece in two weeks time for the Acropolis Rally, which runs from June 2-4.