LOEB AND ELENA ON CLOUD NINE
- Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena won a record-breaking ninth Rallye Deutschland
- Loeb and Hirvonen recorded the fastest and second fastest times of the Power Stage
- Loeb and Elena now lead the drivers’ standings by 54 points
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena bettered their own impressive record for the most wins at a single event by securing a ninth victory in Germany. Ten years after winning their first WRC rally, the eight-time World Champions can now be known as nine-time winners of Rallye Deutschland. Combined with the five consecutive wins for the Loeb/Elena driver pairing, the fifth podium running claimed by Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen enables the Citroën Total World Rally Team to move one step closer to an eighth manufacturers’ title.
With two runs on the Dhrontal test and then the Power Stage, the programme for the final day of Rallye Deutschland looked like a sprint down the final straight. But with significant gaps between the leading drivers, most crews expected to hold their position to the finish. As the cars left the service park, once again all eyes were on the sky. All the competitors wasted no time in opting to fit ‘soft’ Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, which are more effective on the wet tarmac roads in the former French department of Sarre.
First on the road, Sébastien Loeb made the most of the clean racing line to notch up an eighth stage win on SS13. Third fastest on the stage, Mikko Hirvonen had also adopted a fairly cautious pace. Running in reverse order for the final stage, the crews set off for a second run on the 30km-long Dhrontal test. In muddy conditions, the Citroën Total World Rally Team drivers drove a controlled stage to finish sixth and seventh fastest.
Run in the streets of Trier around the ‘Circus Maximus’, the Power Stage completed the German round of the World Rally Championship. Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen recorded the two fastest times, earning them two and three bonus points respectively.
“I took some holidays between the Finland and Germany rallies; it seems to have done me the world of good,” joked the winner after having been warmly congratulated by his team and the crowd. “These three days have gone very well, but the conditions were really not very easy. We were the quickest, but we were also the most consistent. Some competitors were capable of rivaling us in terms of out-and-out performance, but they were caught out by the many pitfalls of the route. Once I had built up a good lead, I just had to avoid making any mistakes. As each rally goes by, we are getting closer to our goal of a ninth title. With a fifty-four point lead and four races left, things are looking good...”
“Before the start, I said that I would be happy to finish on the podium. I have to be pleased therefore to finish third, although the weekend was complicated for me,” commented Mikko Hirvonen. “This rally was really difficult from start to finish, with very dirty roads. This is not the kind of conditions that I particularly like, but that’s rallying!”
“We can be proud that our two cars finished on the podium for the fifth time running,” assessed Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We have further extended our lead in the World Championship standings. We might even be able to wrap up the Manufacturers’ title at the Wales Rally GB.”
The entire team was moved in remembering Philippe Bugalski, who died in an accident a few days ago. In 2001, ‘Bug’ had won the Germany Rally – just before it became part of the WRC calendar – in a Xsara T4. Jean-Paul Chiaroni, his then co-driver and now weather and reconnaissance coordinator for Citroën Racing, stepped onto the podium to receive the cup awarded to the winning manufacturer of the rally.