Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb clinched his fifth consecutive world title on the Pioneer Rally Japan on Sunday - and then promptly declared that he will try and go for his sixth next season.

Loeb, who is now statistically the best driver ever in the 30-odd year history of the World Rally Championship, has reigned supreme since 2004, initially with the Citroen Xsara and more recently with the Citroen C4. Since taking his first WRC win in Germany in 2002, the Frenchman has been right at the forefront of the sport, notching up 46 wins to date from 112 starts and scoring well over 650 points.

Speaking following his latest success - something that means he has now gone one better than Tommi Makinen and Juha Kankkunen, who both took the WRC drivers' crown on four occasions - he was understandably very happy.

He was also very relieved too, as the penultimate round in this year's championship wasn't an easy one and the conditions on day one and especially day three, when there was torrential rain, were extremely challenging.

Indeed he had a scare in the penultimate test, when he spun 200 metres from the finish. But in the end, he did enough taking third and the vital six points required to sow things up.

"It's a fantastic feeling. Along with Daniel [Elena - my co-driver] and everyone in the team, the objective we set ourselves for this year was to win another world crown, and it's tremendously satisfying to have met that target today," Loeb reflected.

"For me there are two important records in this sport: the number of victories and the number of titles. Now we have both.

"I really wanted to wrap up the title here in Japan to enable us to go into Wales Rally GB with a totally free mind. That made the weekend very long and very frustrating, and I have to say that it wasn't much fun.

"It was a really tough rally. The rally was really difficult. I couldn't get in the rhythm. The only thing I had in my mind was no mistake. It wasn't easy to keep the car on the road in these conditions. It was a big pressure.

"Our C4 and our Pirelli tyres functioned very well together on this event, though, and we did what we could to keep any thoughts about the championship out of our minds, but it wasn't easy.

"The title just seemed to loom larger after every stage, but it was well worth the wait in the end! Next year I will be back with Citroen again and for sure I cannot have another objective but to win a sixth title."

Loeb's co-driver Daniel Elena meanwhile was also ecstatic, although he agreed that it was far from easy to take third: "At the start of the year, everybody said it was easy - then after Sweden, they said: 'Ah, maybe not so easy'. Then after Jordan, they said again: 'Ah, maybe it's really not so easy'. It certainly hasn't been easy to finish third here," Elena continued.

"It's not the same when you are used to having the motivation for victory and then you have to take third. I am very happy though. It's been a long year and winning the title is such a great feeling.

"This is our fifth world crown together, and each one has given me tremendous pleasure. I'm not interested in the statistics, though; what counts the most is enjoying the stages, profiting from the terrific atmosphere within the team and working with Seb."

So is this fifth title any sweeter?

"I cannot say whether this year's title is any finer than the others," Loeb summed-up. "I will always have special memories of our first crown and I don't want to give the impression that winning is something you get accustomed to; it's just that each title feels different.

"One thing that has been the same each time is the thrill of being able to share our joy with everyone in the team. They have always given us a car with the potential to challenge for victory, and this is their title, too. That includes [our team-mates] Dani Sordo and Marc Marti whose own results contributed to our success. Our thoughts now turn to Cardiff though where we will try to make it a championship double for Citroen."



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