Spain - day 3: Loeb wins and extends lead.

Sebastien Loeb dominated the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada this weekend to take his ninth win of the season - and move closer to securing a record fifth drivers' title, something never before done in the history of the World Rally Championship.

Loeb seized control of the twelfth round in the series right from the word go and he completed the opening test on Friday, the 20.48 kilometre-run through La Mussara, in 11 minutes 17.3 seconds - 1.5 seconds up on his Citroen team-mate, Daniel Sordo.

It was in the next test though that he put in a big charge and extended his advantage to 7.4 seconds. He then just edged out Sordo in SS3 to return to the mid-day halt with a 7.5 second lead.

On the repeat loop in the afternoon Loeb continued in a similar vein, 1.3 seconds up on Sordo in SS4, 3.5 seconds ahead in SS5 and the same amount in front in SS6. He thus took a comfortable 15.8 second cushion into day two, maintaining his clean sweep in the morning, when he was fastest in SS7, SS8 and SS9.

While in the afternoon Mikko Hirvonen and Francois Duval beat him in SS10 and SS12, Loeb still managed to notch up another stage win and with a 27.7 second lead Sunday was pretty much a formality.

Indeed in the end he took the victory by 24.9 seconds, his fourth win on the trot, after also triumphing in Finland, Germany and New Zealand - and also his fourth win in succession in Spain, having won in 2007, 2006 and 2005 too.

Loeb now enjoys a 12-point lead over Mikko Hirvonen in the race for the 2008 drivers' title - and could clinch the honours on the Tour de Corse, his home event, next weekend.

"The win in this rally means we have achieved a total of 45 victories. Not bad! I am very happy to have got it because it is a huge step in the struggle for the drivers' title," said the Frenchman. "The rally went perfectly for us."

Dani Sordo meanwhile took the runners-up spot and like Loeb he put in an impressive performance. The Spaniard was the only runner anywhere near Loeb at times and he played the perfect support role en-route to taking P2 in front of his home supporters.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastian Loeb (F) - Daniel Elena (MC) Citroen C4 WRC, Citroen Total World Rally Team; winners, Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada
Sebastian Loeb (F) - Daniel Elena (MC) Citroen C4 WRC, Citroen Total World Rally Team; Winner of the Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada
Sebastian Loeb (F) Citroen C4 WRC, Citroen Total World Rally Team; winner, Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada
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