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WRC Sebastien Loeb claims fourth Rally Mexico victory

RALLY GUANAJUATO BICENTENARIO, March 4th-7th, 2010

2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 2


For immediate release
Sunday, March 7th, 2010

FRENCHMAN SÉBASTIEN LOEB CLINCHES FOURTH VICTORY IN RALLY MEXICO

 

·         Solberg and Ogier confirm second and third to complete Citroën’s 1-2-3

·         Spaniard Xavier Pons storms to S-WRC victory in his Ford Fiesta S2000

·         Portugal’s Armindo Araújo seals comfortable P-WRC category win

 

LEÓN (Mexico): Defending World Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena snatched a fourth victory in Rally Mexico in five years, as Loeb took the outright lead in the 2010 FIA World Drivers’ Championship as a result of claiming an unprecedented 55th WRC win. 

 

The French duo were forced to run first on the road through the final three special stages of the re-named Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario, but the 55.5s overnight advantage was too much for either Norwegian Petter Solberg or Frenchman Sébastien Ogier to overturn.

 

Loeb and the Citroën Total World Rally Team duly claimed another haul of maximum WRC points on the second round of the championship. “I had a good lead today and was not going to take any risks with that when I started first on the road,” said Loeb. “I was just breezing through the last couple of stages trying to keep my concentration.”

 

The gripping tussle for second position eventually ended in Solberg’s favour. He and Ogier began the day separated by just 2.7s and the contest was only decided to the Norwegian’s advantage on the final super special stage when he set the fastest time. It marked a fitting end to a terrific three-day battle.

 

Ford team orders dictated that Jari-Matti Latvala was ordered to slow down on the penultimate stage and enable BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team colleague Mikko Hirvonen to move up to fourth overall and claim two extra FIA Drivers’ Championship points in his quest for a maiden world title.

 

The Blue Oval had been beaten fair and square over the Mexican gravel by Citroën, although the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team maintained a six-point lead over the Citroën Total World Rally Team in the FIA World Manufacturers’ Championship.

 

Norwegian Henning Solberg confirmed an excellent sixth overall for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team after setting several impressive stage times on day two and Argentina’s Federico Villagra finished in seventh place and gave the Munchi’s Rally Team its first points of the season.

 

Spain’s Xavier Pons produced a scintillating time in the 19th special stage and that was sufficient to push him back above Czech driver Martin Prokop and into an S-WRC lead he had lost with clutch problems on Saturday. Pons finished eighth overall.

 

The S-WRC success for Pons was the fifth in the relatively short lifespan of the new Ford Fiesta S2000 – it achieved outright victories in Monte Carlo and Qatar on its debut weekend in January and took outright victories in the Kuwait International Rally and the Rally Torrié in Portugal yesterday. 

 

Portugal’s Armindo Araújo cruised through the remaining three stages on Saturday to claim a comfortable win in the P-WRC category and the final place in the overall top 10. Once Japan’s Toshi Arai had lost considerable time changing a damaged wheel on Saturday, it was plain sailing for the defending champion, who snatched the series lead in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

 

Day Three

 

Loeb had only to defend a 55.5s lead over two tricky gravel stages and the final timed super special to make certain of a fourth victory in Mexico and a 55th WRC win. But the main centre of attention was the prospect of a titanic tussle between Solberg and Ogier for second position. A mere 2.7s separated the duo heading to the 28.7km of the Guanajuatito stage.

 

With a refettled car, Pons was determined to challenge Prokop for victory in the S-WRC category, but Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had fallen by the wayside at the overnight halt. It appears that the former P-WRC champion had damaged the inlet manifold on a heavy landing on the final stage on Saturday evening and the decision was taken to withdraw his Škoda Fabia S2000 before the restart. His demise promoted Toshi Arai to 11th overall.

 

Solberg - winner of Rally Mexico in 2005 - promised the grand attack and he was a man of his word. He reduced Loeb’s lead to 41.6s after a stunning run, but that was surpassed by the flying Ogier. The Frenchman beat Solberg by 4.1s to snatch second overall heading to the penultimate 17.94km special stage at Comanjilla. The fight for the runner-up spot was down to just 1.4s.

 

Latvala and Hirvonen both managed to get inside Loeb’s stage time and maintained fourth and fifth overall, Solberg was sixth and Villagra consolidated his seventh place. But Pons overhauled Prokop to regain the S-WRC category lead. The Spaniard beat the Czech by 22.1s to take a 17.3s lead into the final two stages.

 

Loeb continued to ease his pace and take no risks through the penultimate stage and Solberg managed to pip Ogier by 0.8s to reduce the Frenchman’s grip on second position to just 0.6s. Ford management instructed Latvala to slow down and enable championship leader Hirvonen to pass him into fourth position, while Pons all but clinched victory in the S-WRC section by moving a further 4.9s in front of Prokop.

 

The final 4.42km of the super special stage settled the fight for second place. Loeb confirmed his 55th WRC win by the margin of 24.2s and Solberg pipped Ogier for the runner-up spot in a thrilling finale. The remainder of the top 10 held station, with Pons confirming his S-WRC victory and Araújo emerging as the comfortable winner in the P-WRC category.

 

Action in the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship resumes with the Jordan Rally on April 1st-3rd, which also includes the third round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

 

Final positions after SS22:

1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC                                    3h 42m 41.7s

2. Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC                                                3h 43m 05.9s

3. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC                                    3h 43m 07.0s

4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09                        3h 44m 29.2s

5. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09                        3h 44m 56.8s

6. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08                                 3h 45m 29.7s

7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08            3h 52m 55.1s

8. Xavier Pons (E)/Alex Haro (E) Ford Fiesta S2000                                       4h 01m 26.1s

9. Martin Prokop (CZ)/Jan Tomânek (CZ) Ford Fiesta S2000                           4h 01m 43.7s

10. Armindo Araújo (P)/Miguel Ramalho (P) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX          4h 04m 14.2s

 

2010 FIA World Rally Championship

Drivers’ Championship – after round two

1. Sébastien Loeb (F)                                  43 pts             

2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)             37 pts             

3. Sébastien Ogier (F)                     25 pts             

3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)                25 pts             

5. Petter Solberg (N)                              20 pts             

6. Henning Solberg (N)                  16 pts, etc      

 

Manufacturers’ Championship – after round two

1. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team   67 pts             

2. Citroën Total World Rally Team                  61 pts             

3. Citroën Junior Team                            32 pts             

4. Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team                  28 pts             

5. Munchi’s World Rally Team               8 pts

 

Ends


For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 7714867 or + 52 (477) 7114828, E-mail: media@rallymexico.com, eugenio@rallymexico.commauriciog@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com

 

www.wrc.com

www.rallymexico.com

 

 

Date issued: 07/03/2010

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