WRC Loeb clinches victory in Corona Rally Mexico to record 30th WRC win
Corona Rally México
FIA World Rally Championship, round 4 of 16
For immediate release
Sunday, March 11th, 2007
WORLD CHAMPION LOEB CLINCHES 30TH WRC WIN WITH VICTORY IN MEXICO
Finland’s Marcus Grönholm finishes second to maintain World Championship lead;
Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen completes double podium finish for BP-Ford team;
Britain’s Mark Higgins clinches PWRC win; Kristian Sohlberg leads PWRC championship
LEON (México): Defending World Champion and last year’s winner Sébastien Loeb clinched his 30th WRC victory in the 2007 Corona Rally México and moved up to second place in the FIA Drivers’ Championship in León on Saturday.
Partnered by Daniel Elena, the Frenchman began the final day with a one-minute lead over Finland’s Marcus Grönholm and managed his pace perfectly to record a winning margin of 55.8 seconds and become the first driver in WRC history to win 30 rallies. His success marked a debut win for the Citroën C4 WRC on a gravel surface and set up the possibility of a fascinating three-way battle for this year’s FIA Drivers’ Championship.
“It has been good, very good,” said Loeb. “I’ve had no problems at all with the car. Today we had good rhythm. It was a good win.”
Grönholm and co-driver Timo Rautiainen maintained their overall World Championship lead by finishing second overall and BP-Ford World Rally Team colleagues Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were third in a second Ford Focus.
“Second place is okay for me and Seb (Loeb) gets only two points from me,” said Grönholm. “I went from seventh to second, which is not so bad. I am not happy with the weekend though, I lost it on the first day with the engine problem.”
Spain’s Dani Sordo could not match Hirvonen over the closing four stages and eventually settled for fourth place, while Australia’s Chris Atkinson finished fifth place in the sole-surviving factory Subaru. Austria’s Manfred Stohl finished sixth overall in a Team Kronos Citroën Xsara and
Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson maintained seventh and eighth overall in a pair of Ford Focus RS WRC 2006s.
Norway’s Henning Solberg held station to ultimately finish ninth in his Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Focus and Britain’s Mark Higgins rounded off the top 10 and took maximum points in the prestigious PWRC Championship.
Loeb began the final four stages 12th on the road and defending a one-minute lead over Grönholm. Three gravel stages and a re-run of the Nextel Super Special stage stood between the Frenchman and a record-breaking 30th WRC win.
Hirvonen set the fastest time in SS17 in his repaired Ford Focus. The Rally Norway winner was 3.9 seconds quicker than Loeb and clawed a little time back on Grönholm. Atkinson was sixth quickest and slipped further behind fourth-placed Sordo.
Grönholm was fastest in the Guanajuatito stage, the Finn beating Loeb by a mere 1.5 seconds, as Hirvonen continued to edge away from Sordo and tighten his grip on third place. Atkinson was not happy with the set-up of the new Subaru and was resigned to finishing fifth. The leading drivers erred on the side of caution through the final gravel stage, as Hirvonen set the fastest time to edge further away from Sordo.
Higgins began the final morning with a 1m 31.3s advantage over Japan’s Toshi Arai in the PWRC category, with Kristian Sohlberg and Mirco Baldacci in third and fourth.
Higgins set the fastest time in SS17 and extended his overall lead over Arai to 1m 36.7s. Sohlberg was second fastest, but Japan’s Fumio Nutahara had been fastest at the first split, before slipping back. Nutahara and Arai were in flying form through the 18th stage, as Higgins erred on the side of caution to maintain a 1m 30.8s overall lead.
Arai was fastest in the final Comanjilla gravel stage, but Higgins had done enough to coast through the final super special with a comfortable lead over the Japanese driver and third-placed Kristian Sohlberg, the new leader of the PWRC category.
The next round of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship will be the Rally of Portugal on March 30th-April 1st.
Positions after leg 3 (unofficial):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 48m 13.3s
2. Marcus Grönholm (FIN)/Timo Rautianen (FIN) Ford Focus 3h 49m 09.1s
3. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus 3h 49m 41.0s
4. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 49m 57.0s
5. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Glenn MacNeall (AUS) Subaru Impreza 3h 50m 37.4s
6. Manfred Stohl (A)/Ilka Minor (A) Citroën Xsara WRC 3h 51m 58.8s
7. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus 3h 52m 24.1s
8. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Focus 4h 00m 35.9s
9. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus 4h 02m 29.0s
10. Mark Higgins (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Mitsubishi Lancer 4h 08m 44.5s
CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (unofficial)
WRC-Manufacturers (after round 4 – México):
1. BP-Ford WRT 58
2. Citroën Total WRT 43
3. Stobart M-Sport Ford RT 19
3. Subaru WRT 19
5. OMV Kronos Citroën WRT 17
WRC-Drivers (after round 4 – México):
1. Marcus Grönholm 32
2. Sébastien Loeb 28
3. Mikko Hirvonen 26
4. Dani Sordo 13
5. Henning Solberg 11
6. Chris Atkinson 10
7. Petter Solberg 8, etc
PWRC (after round 2 – México):
1. Kristian Sohlberg 12
2. Toshi Arai 11
3. Mark Higgins 10
3. Oscar Svedlund 10
5. Anton Alen 8, etc
For further media information: Corona Rally Mexico Media Centre
Tel: (477) 784 9388, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rallymexico.com