WRC Sebastien Loeb seals 56th WRC victory in Jordan
JORDAN RALLY, April 1st-3rd, 2010
2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Saturday, April 3rd, 2010
CITROËN’S LOEB AND ELENA CLAIM 56TH
WRC VICTORY IN THRILLING JORDAN RALLY
· Finland’s Latvala takes second for Ford; Solberg in third
· Spaniard Xavier Pons cruises to SWRC glory
· Sweden’s Flodin outwits Araújo to claim PWRC win
· Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi storms to MERC victory
DEAD SEA (Jordan): Defending FIA World Rally Champions, Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena, claimed their 56th WRC victory of a record-breaking partnership by mastering the tactics to perfection to clinch victory in the Jordan Rally on Saturday.
Team tactics – the likes of which have never been seen to such an extent on a WRC event before – saw Sébastien Ogier and Mikko Hirvonen used as sacrificial lambs by their respective Citroën and Ford teams as time penalties were also used as tools at the start of the day to determine the crucial starting order.
On the eve of Easter Sunday, Ford attempted to resurrect their WRC title challenge with Hirvonen clocking in early to overcome Citroën’s decision to use Ogier as the pawn in the game of chess. “I think we have seen the limit of the regulations,” said Loeb.
But the Frenchman controlled the event from second on the road in the baking heat to claim a stunning victory from Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala by 35.8 seconds. “It was a very difficult rally,” said Loeb, who now has a 25-point lead in the FIA Drivers’ Championship. “There were stones and it was very slippery. I am very happy to win here for the first time.”
Norwegian privateer Petter Solberg clinched his second successive podium for a superb third position and Spaniard Dani Sordo added vital points for third place to Citroën’s Manufacturers’ points tally by taking fourth overall.
England’s Matthew Wilson finished fifth and a disappointed Ogier lost a certain podium after the time penalty tactics were imposed and finished sixth. “I don’t like these regulations but there are just two manufacturers and I am young so I do what the boss says and go first,” said Ogier. “But I have proved that I am improving rally after rally.”
Argentina’s Federico Villagra finished seventh for the Munchi’s Rally Team and Finland’s ex-F1 supremo Kimi Räikkönen reached the finish in a much-improved eighth overall.
Spaniard Xavier Pons consolidated his comfortable SWRC lead over the final day’s eight stages to confirm a second successive victory in the S2000 section and 10th overall, his cause made that much easier when Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa was excluded for receiving outside assistance on Friday evening. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi was a surprising second of the S2000 runners after numerous rivals suffered a catalogue of problems.
Patrik Flodin had the measure of Portugal’s Armindo Araújo over the final day to seize victory in the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) category. The Swede also finished 11th overall, while the Middle East’s 2009 Pirelli Star Driver champion, Nick Georgiou, held on to take third in the section and 15th overall.
The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi lost a comfortable MERC lead with alternator belt failure in Shuna and this handed the initiative to Al-Rajhi. The Riyadh driver capped a superb weekend by adding victory in the MERC category to his second position in the S2000 section. It was his second MERC victory after last year’s success in Syria.
Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah stormed through the field from 10th position and finished third overall behind Misfer Al-Marri when Finland’s Janne Tuohino capped a miserable weekend for Team Abu Dhabi by retiring within sight of the finish with similar problems to Al-Qassimi.
Fireworks were expected between the leading drivers through the opening 14km of the Yakrut stage. Loeb began the defence of his 24.6s lead, despite the plan of running first on the road in front of Ogier, Latvala and Solberg. Only 43.2s separated the top four and the outcome of the final eight stages was likely to go down to the wire.
Pons was left in a clear SWRC lead at the start of the day when event stewards decided to exclude Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa late on Friday evening. The Ford Fiesta S2000 driver received outside assistance on the road section by the service park and the infringement was spotted by an FIA technical representative. His demise promoted Al-Rajhi to second in the new category at the start of the final day, although the Spaniard’s lead was nearly five and a half minutes.
The fun and games started when crews checked out of service. Sacrificial lamb Ogier left five minutes late to ensure that he fell behind Latvala on the road, but Ford also pulled a master stunt and Mikko Hirvonen clocked in early to redress the balance. Ogier then clocked in early at the stage control and headed into the test before Loeb, but the Frenchman had collected 8m 50s of road penalties in the process.
Loeb extended his overall lead by 0.4s to 28.1s over Latvala, but Ford’s retaliation had also cost Hirvonen 15 minutes in time penalties. Ogier fell from second to eighth in the overall standings and Solberg climbed to third.
Pons and Flodin maintained their comfortable leads in the SWRC and PWRC categories, although Al-Attiyah was on flying form in SWRC and set the 10th fastest time. Czech driver Martin Semerad left the road and retired and Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko was hospitalised with concussion after an accident two stages later.
The treacherous downhill junctions of the Bahath stage failed to prevent Loeb extending his lead to 32.2s, as Solberg set the fastest time. The six-time World Champion continued his dominant performance through Shuna and his lead grew to 33.4s, where Latvala manage to defer Solberg’s challenge by setting the second fastest time.
Loeb was again quickest at the Baptism Site and reached service with a 37.8s lead. Pons and Flodin maintained clear leads over Al-Rajhi and Araújo in their respective SWRC and PWRC categories.
The top five procession continued through the next two stages. Latvala sneaked the stage win off Loeb in Yakrut, but the Frenchman maintained a 36.1s lead heading back to Bahath and reached Shuna with a lead of 38.5s. Loeb had survived a scare on a corner in the previous stage and he noticeably eased his pace through Shuna, as Latvala set the fastest time to reduce the World Champion’s lead to 34.7s heading into the final stage.
Ogier set the fastest time in the final timed test, but Loeb maintained his composure to claim an emphatic victory. Pons was triumphant for the second rally in a month in the SWRC category and Flodin held on in PWRC.
Al-Qassimi began the second day of Middle East action with a comfortable 2m 40s cushion and Al-Rajhi had managed to edge away from Misfer Al-Marri on the second Jordan River stage. SupeRally meant that Finland’s Janne Tuohino rejoined the fray in fourth overall, while Lebanon’s Michel Saleh completed the top five.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah climbed to 11th after massive delays, Jordan’s Amjad Farrah restarted from 12th overall, but transmission damage meant that the UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi was unable to continue and Al-Suwaidi was also sidelined after his engine was damaged in a last stage roll on Friday.
Al-Attiyah was in flying form through the opening kilometres, as he began a climb back through the field to gain as many points as possible. But the stage was cancelled following an accident involving Finland’s Reijo Muhonen running at the rear of the WRC category. Al-Attiyah was fastest from Tuohino through Bahath, but Al-Qassimi maintained a comfortable lead over Al-Rajhi and Al-Marri in the overall standings.
Al-Qassimi’s desperate bid for the MERC victory was curtailed by alternator belt failure in the Shuna stage and the Abu Dhabi driver’s demise promoted Al-Rajhi into the lead in his Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000. Al-Attiyah had powered his way up to fourth position by the midday break and Al-Rajhi extended his overall lead over Al-Marri to 55 seconds through the Shuna and Baptism Site stages. Jordan’s Faris Hijazi was forced to withdraw from seventh position with a back injury.
Al-Attiyah was again fastest through Yakrut, but Tuohino was too far ahead of the Qatari for Al-Attiyah to reach the podium over the final three stages unless a rival hit trouble. The miracle happened at TC20, when Tuohino succumbed to alternator belt woes and Al-Attiyah found himself back on the MERC podium after a roller-coaster rally by his standards, but the day belonged to Al-Rajhi and his jubilant Kronos team. Qatar’s Jaber Al-Marri slid off the penultimate stage and Mubarak Al-Hajri retired on the road section between the last two stages.
Positions after SS21 – final positions* (WRC):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 51m 35.9s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09 3h 52m 11.7s
3. Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 52m 47.7s
4. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 53m 25.2s
5. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 4h 00m 00.2s
6. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC 4h 02m 02.3s
7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 4h 03m 03.9s
8. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Citroën C4 WRC 4h 04m 06.9s
9. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 4h 05m 44.5s
10. Xavier Pons (E)/Alex Haro (E) Ford Fiesta S2000 4h 10m 09.8s
* subject to official clarification
Positions after SS14 – final positions* (MERC):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000 2h 46m 02.8s
2. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza 2h 48m 17.8s
3. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Skoda Fabia S2000 2h 52m 27.1s
4. Michel Saleh (RL)/Ziad Masannat (RL) Subaru Impreza 2h 58m 31.4s
5. Bader Al-Jabri (UAE)/Stephen McAuley (GB) Subaru Impreza 3h 00m 21.3s
6. Majed Al-Shamsi (UAE)/Allan Harryman (GB) Subaru Impreza 3h 00m 39.5s
7. Faris Bustami (HKJ)/Khaled Juma (HKJ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 02m 34.3s
8. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nancy Al-Majali (HKJ) Subaru Impreza 3h 04m 06.8s
9. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT)/Anwar Al-Shraah (KT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 3h 18m 03.3s
*subject to official clarification
2010 FIA World Rally Championship
Drivers’ Championship – after round three (unofficial)
1. Sébastien Loeb (F) 68 pts
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 43 pts
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 37 pts
4. Petter Solberg (N) 35 pts
5. Sébastien Ogier (F) 33 pts
6. Dani Sordo (E) 24 pts
7. Henning Solberg (N) 18 pts
8. Matthew Wilson (GB) 16 pts, etc
Manufacturers’ Championship – after round three (unofficial)
1. Citroën Total World Rally Team 101 pts
2. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 87 pts
3. Citroën Junior Team 48 pts
4. Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team 44 pts
5. Munchi’s World Rally Team 16 pts
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship
Drivers’ Championship – after round three (unofficial)
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA) 16 pts
1. Misfer Al-Marri (QA) 16 pts
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) 10 pts
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) 10 pts
3. Sheikh Hamad Bin Eid Al-Thani (QA) 10 pts
6. Amjad Farrah (HKJ) 8 pts
6. Rashid Al-Ketbi (UAE) 8 pts
8. Essam Al-Nejadi (KT) 7 pts
9. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA) 6 pts
10. Michel Saleh (RL) 5 pts
10. Sheikh Abdullah Al-Qassimi (UAE) 5 pts
12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (QA) 4 pts
12. Faris Bustami (HKJ) 4 pts
14. Mufeed Mubarak (KT) 3 pts
15. Mohammed Al-Marri (QA) 2 pts
15. Meshari Al-Thafiri (KT) 2 pts
1. Giovanni Bernacchini (I) 16 pts
1. Nicola Arena (I) 16 pts
3. Matthieu Baumel (F) 10 pts
3. Michael Orr (GB) 10 pts
3. Arif Yousef (UAE) 10 pts
6. Khaled Al-Kendi (UAE) 8 pts
7. Nick Beech (GB) 6 pts
8. Steve Lancaster (GB) 5 pts
For further media information:
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