WRC » 13 August 2006
Loeb draws level with Sainz with German win.
Kronos Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb took the victory on the Rallye Deutschland on Sunday, the ninth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, and in doing so equalled the record held by Carlos Sainz.
Loeb and Sainz are now the two most successful drivers' in the history of the WRC, in terms of event wins, each having notched up 26 wins.
Loeb led the German event from the off on Friday and he and Daniel Sordo dominated the opening day, to end the first leg comfortably in front and ultimately pave the way for Kronos' eventual one-two finish. While their rivals struggled on the wrong tyres, Loeb and Sordo correctly predicted which tyres to be on and capitalised on it to end day one more than a minute up on their closest challengers.
Although Loeb came under some pressure on Saturday, when Sordo cut his advantage back from 40 seconds to 27 seconds, they soon eased off in order to try and ensure they finished 1-2. Indeed by the end of the second leg, Loeb's cushion had risen back to around 30-odd seconds. Both Loeb and Sordo paced themselves through the final leg and neither had any problems.
Loeb's victory, his fifth in succession on this event, dating back to his maiden WRC win in 2002, is the first time a driver has ever managed to win an event five years on the trot in the WRC. It was also his sixth of the season and allowed him to increase his advantage over Marcus Gronholm in the battle for the 2006 drivers' championship. He now lies 33-points ahead, with seven rounds to go.
Sordo meanwhile took the runners-up spot with another sensational performance. The Spaniard continues to make a name for himself and his runners-up spot, his fourth podium of the year, further consolidated his third position in the drivers' standings. He made no mistakes throughout the three-day event, despite the changeable weather conditions and excelled on his first outing in a WRC car in the wet. It was also his first event as Kronos' second driver, nominated to score manufacturers' points and as such he had to use the 2006-spec car with passive differentials.
Gronholm took the final spot on the rostrum in his BP Ford Focus. The Finn struggled on day one in the wet and admitted he didn't have the confidence to push in such conditions. He wasn't help by the fact he hadn't been able to test the car in the wet over the summer, nor was he aided by being on the wrong rubber. As conditions were generally dry or drier on days two and three though, he managed to claw back some time and ended the event 'best of the rest' after the dominant Kronos-run Citroens.
Citroen in fact almost took a clean-sweep of the podium and Toni Gardemeister did his best to overhaul Gronholm on the final day. He set three fastest stages times in his bid to demote his fellow countryman but eventually had to concede defeat and ended up around 10 seconds behind at the finish, in his Astra-run Xsara.
Mikko Hirvonen had looked to have secured fifth, however disaster struck following the last test, when the Finn had alternator issues on the way back to parc ferme. He eventually needed outside assistance to get to the end and picked up a 5 minute penalty as a result, dropping him down to ninth and out of the drivers' points. As such Manfred Stohl took fifth, the Austrian having a somewhat mixed event in his OMV Peugeot 307. He was though nonetheless delighted to pick up four points, his best finish to date in Germany.
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