21 January 2007
Loeb seals fourth Monte win.
Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has taken the victory on the Rallye Monte Carlo, the opening round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, to get his season off to the perfect start.
Loeb lead from start to finish, stamping his authority on proceedings from the off on Thursday, when he won both the night stages that made up the very short leg 1. Furthermore while he came under pressure from his team-mate, Daniel Sordo on Friday, in the first loop that made up the second leg, and saw his 20 second cushion cut back to less than 9, he re-established his dominance on the repeat runs through, to end the day 25.2 seconds in front.
Loeb then paced himself through Saturday's six stages and the Monaco circuit super special on Sunday, to take his fourth victory at the Principality and to equal the record held by held by Sandro Munari, Walter Rohrl and Tommi Makinen - all of whom have also won the Rallye Monte Carlo four times.
In the end the Frenchman won by 38.2 seconds, his first event in the WRC since his mountain bike accident in the autumn last year, which forced him to miss the final four events of the 2006 season.
Sordo meanwhile also went well in the sister car, taking an additional three stages win for the new Citroen C4 WRC, in addition to the five notched up by Loeb.
Like Seb, Dani eased off during the third leg, content to take second - and the eight points that go with it - on his debut with the factory Citroen Total WRT and to give the French marquee, the perfect 1-2 result on its return to the FIA World Rally Championship with the C4. Both Citroen and Seb take the early leads respectively in the manufacturers' and drivers' championships.
BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm took the final place on the podium, and while he set some good times - and was in the top three on 13 stages out of a possible 15, despite gearbox problems on Friday on the first loop and a moment with a bridge in SS12 - he was unable to match the C4's.
Hopefully he will be able to find more speed on gravel - and on the next two winter rounds, which take place on snow. Due to mild weather the 2007 Rallye Monte Carlo was reduced to a plain asphalt event.
Gronholm's team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen and Chris Atkinson were locked in a tight battle for fourth spot right to the end, with the latter eventually coming out top in his Subaru.
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