SÉBASTIEN LOEB SECURES WIN FOR CITROËN!
A bold and inspired tyre choice, followed by a majestic performance on the final four stages of Rally Catalunya saw Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena sweep to the seventy-ninth victory of their incredible WRC career. They also claimed Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's first win of the year in the process and its 99thin the WRC. Their victory equally means the team remains unbeaten in Catalonia for the second year running! Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin finished ninth overall after finding some confidence behind the wheel again whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson enjoyed their final of racing to the full, ending the rally in twenty-first place.
As the rain continued to fall in the service park this morning, the clear temptation was to play it safe and opt for soft Michelin slicks for the opening loop of today's final leg (61.70km over four stages).
But Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT once again showed its expertise in analysing the weather conditions. In contrast to its rivals, the team correctly predicted that the road surface would dry out: in conjunction with the Michelin technician working with the team, Sébastien Loeb was therefore the only driver to go with hard compound slicks. The French legend then let his driving do the talking, making perfect use of his hard tyres to claim two consecutive stage wins and reach the mid-leg service in the overall lead, 7.1s ahead of the second-placed driver! A stall as Loeb drove around the famous Riudecanyes roundabout (SS17) nonetheless enabled Sébastien Ogier to close the gap to just 3.6s with only the final test to go. But the nine-time world champion held on to claim the seventy-ninth win of his WRC career, more than five years after his last victory (Argentina 2013), 2.9s ahead of his nearest rival. It is the team's first win of the season, after three podiums (2ndin Sweden, 3rdin Mexico and 2ndin Finland).
With no chance of moving up the standings without benefiting from a racing incident, Craig Breen focused on building his confidence back up after yesterday's misfortunes, ending the rally in ninth place.
Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi made the most of the more consistent road conditions to enjoy himself as much as possible behind the wheel. He concluded his final rally of the year in twenty-first position, pleased to have kept out of trouble throughout the event.
WHAT THEY SAID
"It was an almighty scrap, right to the bitter end. When I saw that I had won on the display at the end of the final stage, it was a truly incredible feeling! It's really nice to have managed to be on the pace again after all these years, because the guys haven't stood still whilst I've been away and they really pushed hard every inch of the way. I couldn't afford to drag my heels in getting my bearings back on the gravel on Friday, or on the wet tarmac yesterday either. We were quick this morning after making the right call on tyres and then we held on, despite a minor error on the penultimate stage. Right now, given how the rally panned out, I'd be tempted to say it's perhaps my greatest win and I’m delighted to secure what is a richly-deserved result for the team."
"It was a difficult weekend for us, even though we had great speed at times, especially on the gravel. But we lost a lot of time with our spins. We had nothing to play for today, but we enjoyed ourselves behind the wheel and that was the aim, so we can head for Australia in the best possible frame of mind."
Khalid Al Qassimi
"With the unpredictable weather, it wasn't an easy race for me. We improved gradually on gravel, on tarmac, I wasn't comfortable on the wet roads yesterday, but I had more confidence today."
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
- Loeb / Elena (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:12:08.0
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.9
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +16.5
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.0
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +18.6
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:03.9
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:16.6
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:26.4
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:07.0
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:48.2
21. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +21:28.6
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Sébastien Ogier – 204 points
- Thierry Neuville – 201 points
- Ott Tänak – 181 points
- Esapekka Lappi – 110 points
- Jari-Matti Latvala – 102 points
- Andreas Mikkelsen – 84 points
- Dani Sordo – 71 points
- Elfyn Evans – 70 points
- Craig Breen – 61 points
- Hayden Paddon – 55 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
- Toyota Gazoo Racing – 331 points
- Hyundai WRT – 319 points
- M-Sport Ford WRT – 306 points
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 216 points