Sebastien Loeb took his 13th consecutive sealed surface win on Rally Ireland last weekend and while he triumphed by over a minute, he insisted it was no stroll, given the 'delicate conditions'.

Loeb, who is gunning for his sixth successive world title this season, led pretty much throughout, having grabbed the lead in SS4 on Friday. He then pulled further and further in front in his Citroen Total WRT-run C4 WRC to easily claim the 48th WRC win of his career.

The weather though made things very taxing as continuous rain during the opening two days left standing water in many places and for most of the event drivers' used Pirelli's Sottozero winter tyre to provide better grip.

"It has been a very, very difficult weekend," reflected the Frenchman. "The conditions were really tricky, especially the first day. We started with the tarmac tyres and it was nearly impossible to keep the car on the road in these conditions.

"We understood it was a tyre choice mistake and snow tyres were working very well in these conditions, so from that point the feeling was a bit better and the car was working well for me - absolutely no problem at all.

"[In the end] we were able to control from in front. [But] don't get me wrong, this weekend's win was no stroll. Given the delicate conditions, it was essential to have a car that was easy to drive and my C4 WRC was perfect from start to finish. Today's victory was obviously the best way possible to kick off this year's championship."

Despite his masterful performance however, and he won eleven of the events 17 stages - two were cancelled on safety grounds by the organisers due to flooding - it wasn't, excuse the pun, all 'plain sailing'.

Indeed he had two quite big moments, sliding off the road in SS12 on Saturday and then another in the penultimate test on Sunday with less than 16 competitive kilometres to go.

"I came out of a corner a bit too wide [in Sloughan Glen 2] yesterday and my rear wheel smacked the bank," he recalled.

"The rim became clogged up with dirt and that caused a big vibration. Given our lead, we didn't hesitate to lift.

"[Then today in SS18 we briefly went off the road]. When it happened it was not a complete loss of control but I went a bit on the grass and when you are in the grass you don't know if there's a stone or not. If it's only grass it's okay but if it's a stone it can break something so I was a bit lucky, but other drivers were all a bit lucky one or two times in the rally."

The WRC now heads to Norway - and like Rally Ireland the event is taking place as part of the championship for only the second time. Last time, in 2007, Loeb didn't do well and eventually came home 14th following what he described at the time as a 'tough' weekend.

Seb has done well on snow though in the past, winning the Swedish Rally in 2004, as well as finishing second in 2007 and 2006.

The five-time world champion has clear target for round two later this month too, even if, for once, he won't be the favourite, with BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Scandinavian duo taking that honour.

"I hope I will be able to fight for the victory," he summed-up. "For me I like this kind of rally; it is always a pleasure to drive in Norway and Sweden in the snow. It is only one rally per year [on snow] and I'm excited to go there.

"It is always a good challenge for me to try to fight for the victory because Mikko [Hirvonen] won in Norway last time we were there, and Jari-Matti [Latvala] won in Sweden [in 2008]."



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