26 April 2009
Loeb wins Rally Argetina
Sebastien Loeb has secured his fifth win of the 2009 World Rally Championship season, and his fifth successive victory on Rally Argentina, to extend his advantage at the head of the championship standings.
The Frenchman went into the final day of the event holding a comfortable lead following the retirement of Mikko Hirvonen on the second day, and was able to successfully maintain his lead over team-mate Dani Sordo to continue his 100 per cent record this season.
Loeb had led the event following the Thursday evening Super Special test but slipped back down the order during Friday, making two rare mistakes on the final test of the day to head into Saturday in third place. A string of stage wins during Saturday's morning loop allowed the Frenchman to hit the front and when Hirvonen was forced out during the afternoon, it gave Loeb the comfortable gap he needed over team-mate Sordo.
Three more stage wins followed on the final day, with Loeb eventually taking victory by 1min 13.1secs from Sordo, with the 1-2 finish for Citroen also helping the French manufacturer no end in the manufacturers' title race.
Heading into day three, Jari-Matti Latvala had been left to spearhead the Ford challenge, but a fuel pressure problem during the first stage of the morning saw him lose eight minutes and plummet down the order. Having been ordered to bring him a finish following his recent run of disappointing performances, the young Finn rebounded with two fastest stage times later in the final day but had to settle for sixth place at the finish.
Latvala's issues looked likely to give Petter Solberg a second podium finish of the season, but the former champion encountered similar problems to the Ford man on the second stage of the day. While Latvala was able to restart however, the same couldn't be said for Solberg who was forced to retire with just three stages remaining.
The problems for both Latvala and Solberg allowed Henning Solberg to take the final podium place after a lonely event in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus, while Federico Villagra came out on top of a three day long battle with Matthew Wilson to take his best ever WRC result in fourth.
Behind Wilson and Latvala, the only other WRC runner to make it to the finish was Sebastien Ogier in ninth place, the Citroen Junior Team driver dropping out of the points after a starter motor problem on the very last stage. His team-mate Conrad Rautenbach crashed out on day two. Ogier's late problem allowed Production World Rally Championship winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and local driver Juan Marchetto to bring home points finishes in seventh and eighth place.
Al-Attiyah's PWRC success came after problems for both Gabriel Pozzo and Marcos Ligato, with the Subaru man eventually securing honours by more than two minutes from Ligato, with Toshi Arai third.
The Junior World Rally Championship win went to Michal Kosciuszko, but only after an event where all three drivers were forced to make the most of the SupeRally rules after running into problems of one kind or another. Aaron Burkart took second, with Alessandro Bettega in third.
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