18 November 2007
Ireland - leg 3: Irish win puts Loeb back on top.
Seb opted to pace himself a bit more in the afternoon, on the repeat runs, and was 'only' third fastest in SS14, 2.5 seconds off Chris Atkinson. He won the next test though – to take his fourth stage win of the day and his ninth of the event, before settling for the fifth best time in SS16, the last stage of the day, 6.3 seconds behind Jari-Matti Latvala.
Loeb thus took a 59.3 second advantage into the third leg, easing off through the final four stages and eventually taking the victory by just under a minute.
His maximum score means he re-takes the lead in the drivers' championship – having lost it at the end of May when he crashed out in Sardinia. Loeb is now 6 points up Gronholm, with just one event, the Wales Rally GB to go in two weeks time.
Sordo for his part put in a good drive in the sister C4 WRC winning five stages on the opening day in order to give the French manufacturer a clean sweep.
In view of the situation in the drivers' championship, he was never going to be allowed to challenge Loeb, but he was lucky to get away with a small off on Saturday when he went off the road in SS12 and got stuck on a concrete wall.
The Spaniard was helped back on again by some spectators and he continued on his way, despite slightly damaging the bodywork on his C4. That incident cost him around 30 seconds, but with a good margin over his nearest rival in P3, didn't actually make much difference.
Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile took the final place on the rostrum - his best ever result in the WRC. The Finn posted twelve top three stage times during the event, including winning SS16 and SS19.
Like Sordo he had a moment on day 2 when he went off the road and into a field – losing 20 seconds, but he also managed to carry on.
Mikko Hirvonen was next up in fourth, after opting for a 'safety-first' approach in order to ensure he notched up at least three points to secure the manufacturers' championship for BP Ford.
In the end he easily did enough, taking 5 points for P4, something that guarantees the M-Sport-run outfit its second consecutive manufacturers' crown. He also won two stages on the final day, just for good measure.
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