Sebastien Loeb sweeps up the points at Rally Finland
Sebastien Loeb, the seven-time world champion sealed victory in Rally Finland with a stunning performance on Saturday.
Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena have been first on the road on all three days of the high-speed event, having to "sweep" the gravel track.
But they fought their way to victory in their Citroen ahead of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi pairing of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Citroen teammates Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia finished third.
Sheikh Khallid Al Qassimi, Ford Abu Dhabi's third driver, finished in 14th place.
Loeb's win, his second in Finland and the 66th of his career, means he extends his lead at the top of the drivers' standings heading into round nine of the World Rally Championship in Germany from August 18 to 21.
"I'm really happy with my performance because I've cleaned the road for three days but won," Loeb said on wrc.com."It was the perfect rally." The Frenchman's previous win in Finland came in 2008.
Ogier lost second place to Latvala after a late puncture forced him to drive more carefully as he did not have any more spare tyres.
Mikko Hirvonen, Latvala's Ford teammate, won the power stage to secure three world championship bonus points.
Driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen was 0.3 seconds faster than Latvala, who picked up two bonus points, with Loeb taking the final bonus score in third position. Hirvonen said on the rally championship website: "My drive in that stage wasn't too intelligent, because I pushed like crazy in that stage but it was very slippery with these worn tyres. But it's the same for everyone."
Hirvonen was perhaps the fastest man in the rally over the three days but a mistake on stage one, when he ran into a tree and damaged his car, left him in 36th place at the end of the first day.
But he maintained his challenge and charged through the field to eventually finish in fourth place.
Petter Solberg was fifth with Mads Ostberg, Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson filling sixth to eighth places ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Juho Hanninen.
Published: July 31, 2011 04:00 AM