19 August 2007
Germany - leg 3: Loeb does it again.
Sebastien Loeb kept up his unbroken run of victories on the Rallye Deutschland on Sunday, when he came through to win the Trier-based event for the sixth year in succession.
The Citroen man took the lead from the very first stage on Friday and won two of the three tests that made up the first loop to return to the mid-day service with a 5.8 second lead.
The repeat runs though didn't go so well and after gambling on the softer BFGoodrich tyres, in the belief that it would rain, the Frenchman found himself at a bit of a disadvantage and although he minimised the damage very well, he was piped in the final test of the day, SS6, and dropped to P2, after his former team-mate, Francois Duval put in a charge.
On Saturday though normal service was resumed and Loeb re-took the top spot on the very first test. Furthermore after Francois lost around 20 seconds with two costly spins, Seb found himself with a 15.2 second advantage.
The triple world champion then proceeded to increase the margin further in SS8 and went into the first remote service zone having pulled out a 24.9 second cushion. Following that Seb continued to set the standard and by the time the crews returned to the mid-day service he was 26.7 seconds up on his nearest challenger.
During the repeat runs in the afternoon, he continued to inch further and further away and he eventually ended day 2 37.8 seconds up on Marcus Gronholm.
Sunday was the usual scenario and Loeb paced himself to the finish and he eventually won by around 20 seconds.
The result is a welcome boost for him, especially as Gronholm missed out on second after a mistake in the final stage.
Consequently Loeb cut the gap to Gronholm in the drivers' championship by five points, rather than 2 and the margin between them goes down from 13 points to 8 – with six rounds still and 60 still up for grabs.
Gronholm for his part had a bad start on Friday and he lost 10 seconds straight away when he was only seventh fastest in SS1 due to a lack of confidence. Although he made some changes and was happier in SS2, setting the second best time, just 0.9 seconds off the stage winner, he was unable to keep that up during the remainder of the day and was fourth quickest in SS3, SS4, SS5 and SS6. He finished the first leg in third.
Right from the off then he was on the back foot and while he did make progress on Saturday, moving up from third to second, he was poor again in the first test of the day, SS7, and initially dropped behind his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen after only managing the fifth quickest time.
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