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Finland - day 3: Dream win for Loeb.

Sebastien Loeb took the glory on the Rally Finland this weekend and in doing so he ticked off one of his targets for the year, which was to win the event for the very first time.

Coming into the ninth round in the World Rally Championship, the Frenchman had said that he wouldn't take unnecessary risks in Jyvaskyla in his bid to get on the top step of the podium, but in the end he enjoyed a mighty scrap with BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen.

Loeb took the lead from the off, winning the short Killeri super special on Thursday night, before the action got underway 'proper' on Friday.

The Citroen #1 really went for it the next day and on the first two morning loops won four stages outright and tied for honours with Hirvonen in SS2 and SS6 - when they were both joint fastest. Consequently he finished SS7 with a 9.1 second lead.

In the afternoon he managed to successfully defend his lead and while Hirvonen spoilt his run in SS8 and was 0.7 seconds quicker, Loeb was fastest in SS9 and SS10. After winning the repeat run through Killeri SSS, he concluded the opening leg with a 14.4 second cushion.

On day two - the longest of the event - there was nothing much to choose between Loeb and Mikko and it wasn't until the final two stages that Seb finally inched further in front, in part because Mikko had trouble getting off the line prior to the penultimate stage.

Sunday's short finale was always going to be a bit of a formality with only 40 competitive kilometres, and while Loeb spun in the penultimate test, his 18.2 second cushion was more than sufficient to ensure he took the maximum ten points.

The result moves him to within a point of taking the lead in the drivers' championship and it also means he joins an exclusive club as prior to this weekend only six non-Finns had won the event in 57 years - and only three non-Nordic drivers, namely Markko Martin (2003), Didier Auriol (1992) and Carlos Sainz (1990).

"I am absolutely delighted and it has been an amazing fight with Mikko. I could not afford to make a single mistake and it has been flat out to the finish," said Loeb following SS23. "Winning Rally Finland is such an important thing for me. The feeling is amazing."



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Podium, Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team and Team
Isolde Holderied. Toyota GT86 CS-R3. Rallye Deutschland safety/zero car [Pic credit: Toyota]
Isolde Holderied. Toyota GT86 CS-R3. Rallye Deutschland safety/zero car [Pic credit: Toyota]
Isolde Holderied [Pic credit: Toyota]
Dani Sordo (ESP) Marc Marti (ES), Hyundai I20 WRC, Hyundai Motorsport
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Podium
Podium
Podium
Podium
Podium
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Andreas Mikkelsen ,Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC, #9 Volkswagen Motorsport II)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)

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