Sebastien Loeb took 'one of his greatest' ever wins today in Finland, triumphing on the classic for the second time.
Loeb led pretty much throughout in his works Citroen DS3 WRC moving up into P1 in SS2 and then concluding the short opening leg 3.8 seconds up on his team-mate, Sebastien Ogier. On Friday morning he maintained his position at the head of the pack, despite still running first on the road. However in the afternoon he slipped back, only to be handed back top spot in the final test as the usual tactics came into play [see separate story - click here
On Saturday he thus started with a slender 1.5 second cushion, but with conditions damp, the moisture bound together the loose gravel and Loeb pulled away, heading into Service F post-SS16 having increased his lead to 10.8 seconds.
This afternoon Loeb pushed on and he immediately gained almost 7 seconds, when Ogier, his nearest challenger, lost time with a front-left puncture in SS17. That left Jari-Matti Latvala to pick up the mantle and the Finn was quickest in SS18, to close to within 13 seconds of P1 and to move up to second overall.
Loeb however was still in control, and managed his advantage over the remaining stages, conceding only 0.5 seconds in SS19, 2.2 seconds in SS20 and 1.9 seconds in SS21.
Heading into the event ending 4.19 km Laajavuori Power Stage, Loeb had 8.4 seconds in hand and unsurprisingly he held on to eventually triumph by 8.1 seconds. It was his 65th career win and his fourth of the season, one that sees him extend his lead in the drivers' championship from 17 points to 27 with five rounds to go.
“It's one of the greatest wins of my career,” said Loeb, who becomes the first non-Scandinavian to ever win the event twice. “I had to work for it and it took a long time before it took shape. Sometimes you have to go beyond the limits to open up the gap. I felt really good on the roads with the Citroën DS3 WRC, even more so than in the past with the Xsara or the C4.
“My aim was to be in the lead in the world championship before the events on tarmac. I've achieved it, but there are still a lot of points up for grabs.”
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile had to settle for the runners-up spot, although he felt victory would have been possible, had there been just a few more tests: “I was closing on the lead all the time but I ran out of kilometres. Just two more stages would have been enough,” he noted.
“I drove badly this morning when the car didn't perform as I would have liked and I didn't know what to do. I finally realised that I needed to make a change in the differential, and when I made that everything came together. Unfortunately it was too late.”