WRC Frenchman Loeb seals third successive Mexico victory
CORONA RALLY MEXICO, February 29th-March 2nd 2008
2008 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Sunday, March 2nd, 2008
WORLD CHAMPION LOEB CLAIMS THIRD
SUCCESSIVE CORONA RALLY MEXICO WIN
Aussie Chris Atkinson takes superb second for Subaru
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala maintains third to the finish
Frenchman Ogier claims stunning J-WRC debut win
LEON (Mexico): The French crew of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena clinched a third successive victory in the Corona Rally Mexico, round three of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, and the defending World Champion duly moved a single point behind Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen in the FIA Drivers’ Championship.
Australian Chris Atkinson clung on to second position over the final day to earn his best ever WRC finish and lift himself to fourth position in the Drivers’ Championship, despite running with a migraine for most of the final morning. Early rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala followed up his Swedish success last month with third overall in the leading BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Ford Focus RS.
“On the first stage this morning we encountered two dogs, but I took no risks,” said Loeb. “There was only a short distance today, but it was a really nice rally and the maximum points has put us back in the hunt for the championship and given us a good position before the next rally in Argentina.”
Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud were involved in a desperate fight for fourth position over the closing kilometres with BP Ford’s Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. The Munchi’s Rally Team duo held the upper hand at the start of the leg, but Hirvonen put them under severe pressure from the start and edged into a 2.5 second lead before the closing super special when Solberg collected a flat tyre. The extra championship point was settled in Hirvonen’s favour when Solberg lost over a minute on the final Nextel stage.
Britain’s Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin finished a solid sixth in a Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus RS. Munchi’s Rally Team driver Federico Villagra was seventh and Mexican driver Ricardo Trivino overcome a potential exclusion for driving with non-homologated driving gloves on the 12th stage on Saturday to take a fine eighth in his Peugeot 206 WRC.
Loeb, driving a Citroën C4 WRC, began the final day 61.4 seconds ahead of Atkinson and admitted that he would not be taking any risks. Latvala also stressed that he was too far behind the Australian to mount a serious challenge for second position, but avoiding a puncture was critical over the opening 16.09km León special.
Latvala was quickest out of the blocks and clawed 13.9 seconds back on Atkinson, but any thoughts of second position were extinguished when the decision was taken to cancel SS18 on safety grounds because there were too many spectators on the special stage.
The tussle between Hirvonen and Solberg was fascinating. The Norwegian began the final day 15.9 seconds in front and in fourth position, but Hirvonen reduced that lead by 6.7 seconds in the opening stage to set up a fascinating showdown in the 19th Comanjilla stage. The Finn was in flying form, set the fastest time and eventually snatched fourth position and that vital extra point that kept him ahead in the FIA Drivers’ Championship standings. Petter Solberg claimed the final Manufacturers’ point for Subaru, despite picking up a flat tyre on the last of the longer gravel stages.
Mexico was a miserable experience for the new Suzuki World Rally Team: Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson showed some of the SX4’s potential on the early stages, but was withdrawn with engine piston damage. Throttle and engine-related problems cost Finnish colleague Toni Gardmeister large chunks of time on day one and he was withdrawn at the end of the opening leg.
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier headed into the final day with a 1m 32.1s advantage in the J-WRC category over Estonian Jaan Mölder, with Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko in third position. The WRC debutant drove in a restrained and professional manner to confirm a sensational victory in his Citroën C2 S1600, with Molder rounding off the top 10 and finishing second in the category. Kosciuszko finished third and 11th overall.
“I did not take any risks on the last day,” said a delighted Ogier. “It was a fantastic rally for me, very enjoyable, and it gives me a great feeling for the rest of the year.”
The WRC now heads to South America for the second successive gravel round of the championship in Argentina at the end of March.
2008 Corona Rally Mexico – positions at end of day 3 (unofficial):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (MC) Citroën C4 WRC 3h 33m 29.9s
2. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza WRC 2006 3h 34m 36.0s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07 3h 35m 09.6s
4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07 3h 37m 08.6s
5. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS WRC 07 3h 38m 27.8s
6. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 07 3h 39m 58.8s
7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge-Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 07 3h 52m 32.9s
8. Ricardo Trivino (MEX)/Checo Salom (MEX) Peugeot 206 WRC 3h 54m 47.2s
9. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C2 S1600 3h 58m 54.8s
10. Jaan Mölder (EE)/Frederic Miclotte (B) Suzuki Swift S1600 4h 00m 26.7s
FIA World Rally Championship – positions after round 3:
1. Mikko Hirvonen 21 pts
2. Sébastien Loeb 20 pts
3. Jari-Matti Latvala 16 pts
4. Chris Atkinson 14 pts
5. Gigi Galli 9 pts
5. Petter Solberg 9 pts, etc
1. BP Ford Abu Dhabi 37 pts
2. Subaru 25 pts
2. Citroën Total 25 pts
4. Stobart VK M-Sport 19 pts
5. Munchi’s Rally Team 6 pts
6. Suzuki 5 pts
For further media information:
Corona Rally Mexico Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 7114421 or + 52 (477) 7713070, E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org