Loeb claims Spanish win, Citroen secure manufacturers'

Hirvonen meanwhile had a difficult event and never looked comfortable on the opening two days. He found his form a bit more today and was quickest in SS14, although by then it was all too little, too late. He still got second however as Latvala again sacrificed a position to help his team-mates title challenge.

“It was a tough rally and initially I struggled for pace on the asphalt,” Hirvonen conceded. “However, I made some changes to the way I drove, my times improved and my confidence increased. It took me a long time to realise what I needed to do, but I finished with a good feeling and thanks to Jari-Matti's great support, it means the championship is still wide open going to the final round.

“The asphalt rallies are behind me now and it will be an exciting finale in Britain in conditions that I like. I must win the rally but the destiny of the title is pretty much in my own hands and that's a good feeling.”

Latvala enjoyed another strong event and his pace on the asphalt stages on days two and three was very impressive: “It was a fantastic weekend and great to be on the podium after my best performance in Spain,” remarked the Crash.net columnist. “I'll take plenty of positives away from the rally. I have so much confidence with the Fiesta on asphalt and I want to store up my asphalt speed and take it out of the bottle when I need it.

“I'm still annoyed about my spin on Friday when I lost the chance of victory. It was my mistake, and a painful one, but the conditions weren't the same for everyone. However, the positives from this weekend far outweigh that one mistake.”

Away from the podium, local star Dani Sordo was next up and took fourth for the new MINI WRT. After rostrums in Germany and France he was slightly disappointed not to do better, but that is a good indication of just how competitive the John Cooper Works WRC car is.

“It is okay to be fourth, but we lost a lot on the first day on the gravel stages and with the dust,” Sordo said. “We had hoped the rain would have come a little bit earlier today. For the first two stages we had the wrong tyres and the others had the right ones, then in the final stage we had the right ones. It was fun and a little bit slippery in some places. I am quite okay, but not totally happy as I really wanted to finish on the podium on my home rally, but it didn't happen this time.”

To emphasise MINI's competitiveness, Kris Meeke followed his team-mate home in fifth place, the Britain's best result thus far at the top level. Meeke also ended the event on a high by winning the Power Stage, 0.2 seconds up on Sordo.

“That was the perfect end to this rally for me,” Meeke noted. “I knew we had made a good start to the stage, but then knew I had messed up on the last roundabout. I had a quiet word with my engineer, Teena (Gade), in service before the last loop and she was saying just get it home as we will be happy with a finish now. I was so frustrated and wanted to go fast, as I loved the power stage the first time through. To be quicker than Dani on the same tyres on his home patch is something pretty special. Over the whole rally I don't have the experience to compete with the other guys yet, but this shows that when I know where we are going we can be with them.”

Mads Ostberg rounded out the top six for the M-Sport Stobart Ford team. The Norwegian ran in the top-seven throughout and was happy with his pace, especially on the final day.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Anttila (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Anttila (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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Chris - Unregistered

October 23, 2011 5:11 PM

The natural order has been restored. Well done Seb and Citroen. Anything other than a Seb championship would be crime. "Matthew Wilson crashed out of a points finish on the penultimate stage (10mins 38 secs off the lead in 10th) when pressured by Dennis Kuipers" - seriously - I don't think he even deserves the title 'hapless'.

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