Citroen Xsara WRC driver Carlos Sainz is the new top billing on the WRC Drivers' Championship leaderboard, following a storming drive on the last day to claim second place in the Tour de Corse, the French round of the World Rally Championship.

Lying third with two stages to go, battling with Ford's Francois Duval for second, Sainz elected to use slick tyres, gambling that the morning's rain would dry out. Initially, he lost ten seconds on the damp tarmac, but successfully passed Duval in the last stage when, as he predicted, the roads dried up.

Sainz now leads Subaru's Petter Solberg [winner in Corsica], and Peugeot's Richard Burns - Championship leader up to this weekend's event - by three points. "It's very nice," he reacted. "There's a long way to go, but everything worked well today."

"This has been such a difficult rally for tyres, right up until the end nobody was sure what we would want," added the Spaniard, "It was my decision to go on the slicks, and it was the right one. It's been a great battle with Francois. Now I have the championship lead - I just hope I have a good Catalunya."

Citroen's other Driver's Championship contender, Sebastien Loeb, set the fastest time on all four stages of the last day, truly living up to his 'Flying Frenchman' nickname. But this was not enough to score following a nine-minute 'off' on day two and he is now fourth in the Driver's Championship, with 55 points, six behind Sainz.

"This is quite a difference from two weeks ago - but then that's the way rallying goes," noted Loeb, "The one thing we can take from this rally is the pace we have shown, that's encouraging for the next round in Catalunya."

Colin McRae meanwhile turned out a solid performance in his Citroen Xsara WRC to finish fifth overall, picking up valuable points - enough to allow the team to increase its lead over Peugeot in the Manufacturer's Championship by a further four points, with two rallies remaining.

The fourth Xsara driven by Philippe Bugalski and run by Spanish outfit Piedrafita Sport, finished ninth.

Team boss Guy Frequelin concluded: "We were very disappointed for Sebastien, but Carlos and Colin performed well. They did a good rally especially regarding tyres choices which were very tricky. With Carlos and Citroen leading both championships we couldn't be more motivated for what's coming next."

 

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