WRC Sebastien Loeb clinches 50th WRC in Cyprus
FxPro CYPRUS RALLY, March 13th-15th 2009
FIA World Rally Championship, round three
For immediate release
Sunday, March 15th, 2009
FRENCHMAN SÉBASTIEN LOEB REACHES
HALF CENTURY OF WRC WINS IN CYPRUS
·Hirvonen confirms second for Ford; privateer Solberg delighted with third
·Sandell pips Araújo to PWRC glory; Czech Prokop clinches JWRC win
LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Citroën Racing's Sébastien Loeb secured an emphatic victory in the FxPro Cyprus Rally, round three of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), and re-wrote his own record books by securing a landmark 50th WRC victory in Limassol on Sunday afternoon.
The talented Frenchman has taken the world of rallying by storm since sealing his first WRC victory in Germany in 2002 and he comfortably held off the challenge from Finland's Mikko Hirvonen over the closing three stages in Cyprus to win by a margin of 27.2 seconds.
"I didn't really think about the 50 victories," said Loeb. "I wanted to concentrate on keeping everything in order and making sure I made no mistakes. It has been a fantastic start to the season for me. I have three wins from three events and the 50th victory makes it that extra special. It's incredible. I remember the records of Carlos (Sainz) and Colin (McRae). They were my mentors. Now this is like a dream."
Hirvonen's BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team settled for second overall and eight manufacturers' series points, but Spaniard Dani Sordo lost out on the final podium place to Petter Solberg over the closing two stages. The success for the Norwegian privateer marked his first podium finish since his second overall with the Subaru team in last year's Acropolis Rally. "We are back," shouted an elated Solberg at the stage finish.
Sébastien Ogier and Britain's Matthew Wilson fought tooth and nail for fifth overall. Wilson's hold on the position was reduced to 15 seconds through Foini, even though Ogier stalled his engine near the start, but the Frenchman displaced Wilson in the penultimate stage and looked set to hold on to his position until he left the road less than one kilometre from the end.
Zimbabwe's Conrad Rautenbach, Argentinean driver Federico Villagra and the UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi completed the top eight. Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala climbed back through the field over the closing kilometres to restore some pride after Saturday's accident and claim two Manufacturers' points, with Norway's Henning Solberg claiming the final point for the Stobart VK Ford team.
Thirty-one of the original 32 starters tackled the first of three special stages on Sunday, only Cypriot Nicos Thomas missing out on the daunting 30km of the Foini stage. Citroën team principal Olivier Quesnel had told Dani Sordo that manufacturers' points were the priority over a podium finish and he was expected to fall behind Solberg.
Hirvonen reduced Loeb's overall lead to 44 seconds through Foini and to 26.9 seconds through the penultimate Anadiou special, as Solberg duly passed Sordo and moved into third overall in his eight-year old Citroën Xsara, despite stalling and missing a gear in SS12. Through the final Anadiou Dam stages the leaders held station and Loeb had done enough to secure a memorable 50th WRC win.
Portugal's Armindo Araújo began the final leg with a 16.5 second advantage over Sweden's Patrik Sandell in the PWRC category and found himself inside the top 10 when Russia's Evgeny Novikov rolled out of seventh overall. Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah broke his exhaust and suffered from a rising engine temperature, but was the fastest of the PWRC runners through the opening stage and closed to within 53 seconds of the lead.
Rival Araújo edged a further 0.1 seconds ahead of Sandell, but the Swede was in superb form in his Skoka Fabia Super S2000 through the 40km of Anadiou and surged into a 17.5s overall lead heading into what promised to be a nervy final stage. He held on to secure the last gasp win, with 10th-placed Araújo consolidating second place and Al-Attiyah snatching third and 11th overall.
Czech driver Martin Prokop began the final three stages with a 2m 06s lead over Poland's Michal Kosciuszko in the JWRC category and pulled further ahead in Foini when the Pole suffered power steering woes.
2009 FxPro Cyprus Rally - final positions (unofficial @ 12.55hrs):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 4h 50m 34.7s
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 4h 51m 01.9s
3. Petter Solberg (N)/Philip Mills (GB) Citroën Xsara 4h 52m 24.1s
4. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 4h 53m 01.0s
5. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 4h 57m 15.7s
6. Conrad Rautenbach (ZW)/Daniel Barritt (GB) Citroën C4 WRC 5h 01m 46.6s
7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez-Companc (AR) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 5h 03m 53.2s
8. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 5h 04m 18.8s
9. Patrik Sandell (S)/Emil Axelsson (S) Skoda Fabia Super S2000 5h 10m 11.3s
10. Armindo Araújo (P)/Miguel Ramalho (P) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 5h 10m 29.6s
2009 Drivers' Championship - positions after round 3
1. Sébastien Loeb (F) 30 pts
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 22 pts
3. Dani Sordo (E) 17 pts
4. Henning Solberg (N) 10 pts
5. Petter Solberg (N) 9 pts
6. Matthew Wilson (GB) 8 pts, etc
2009 Manufacturers' Championship - positions after round 3
1. Citroën Racing World Rally Team 48 pts
2. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 32 pts
3. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team 22 pts
4. Citroën Junior Rally Team 11 pts
5. Munchi's World Rally Team 3 pts
For further media information:
2009 FxPro Cyprus Rally media office, Tel: + 357 25314775, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org