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Loeb Extends WRC Lead After Corsica Win

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
World Rally Championship.jpg
World Rally Championship.jpg

14 October 2008 - With his second victory in back-to-back tarmac rallies, Citroen's Sbastien Loeb has extended his lead in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) to 14 points over closest rival Ford's Mikko Hirvonen The success in Rally de France - the 13th of 15 rounds in the WRC - was the fifth consecutive win this season and the fourth consecutive victory on the French island of Corsica for Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena.

"It would obviously have been more enjoyable if we had had a fight on our hands," said Loeb after winning by the largest winning margin - over three minutes - of the season.

"But there's nothing I can do about that. It's not me you need to ask what our opponents will have to do to beat us on this event! We are unbeaten this year on asphalt and we have pulled further clear at the top of the championship standings.

The weekend could have been worse" Behind Loeb's Citroen C4, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen finished second after team-mate Franois Duval and Jari-Matti Latvala took penalties late in the rally.

Dropping to fifth after having to stop to change a puncture on the first stage of the final day, Hirvonen fought back to fourth before Duval and Latvala incurred time penalties to reinstate their team-mate ahead.

"I really appreciate what Jari-Matti and Franois did to help my title challenge," said Hirvonen. "There was a lot of broken asphalt in these stages and I saw a pothole in the distance about 4km after the start. I decided to drive over it - sometimes you do and sometimes you don't - but unfortunately the impact broke the wheel rim and allowed the air to escape from the front right tyre.

I could have avoided it by driving around the hole so it was my mistake. I had to stop and change the tyre." Following the Ford trio and dropping one position after also puncturing on the final day, Subaru's Petter Solberg took fifth while team-mate Chris Atkinson finished sixth.

The home event win for the Citron team was the 46th WRC victory by Loeb and Elena and their tenth for the 2008 season with 13 events now completed. Loeb's result not only extended his lead over Hirvonen from 12 points to 14, the weekend's result also reinforced Citron's hold on the manufacturers' title. The French team now has 169 points to BP Ford's 146.

Third in the drivers' title chase behind Hirvonen despite not finishing Rallye de France is Loeb's team-mate Dani Sordo. The Spaniard is 33 points behind Hirvonen with a maximum of 20 left to score in the season's last two events. Rally de France was also the final round of the Junior World Rally Championship (J-WRC) where again Citron tasted success.

Czech Republic driver Martin Prokop won the round in his Citron C2 while Frenchman Sbastien Ogier, also in a Citron C2, finished with an eight point lead to take the 2008 J-WRC title.

Corsica was the final tarmac event of the season and teams now revert to their gravel setup for the penultimate round in Japan in a little over two weeks time (31 October - 2 November).

Run from the far northern island of Hokkaido, the rally moves to the new location of Sapporo, the fifth largest city in Japan. The 2008 WRC then concludes with Rally Great Britain on the first weekend in December.

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