No WRC let-up for Loeb, despite triumph at Corsica


AFP

AJACCIO, France — Sebastien Loeb, who took a giant step towards his fifth successive world crown after winning the Rally of Corsica, said he would keep giving 100 percent until the end of the season despite being virtually assured of another world title. The French Citroen driver beat Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen and Belgium’s Francois Duval, both driving Fords, into second and third in the 13th race of the season. The win means Loeb now takes a commanding lead at the top of the drivers’ championship with 106 points to Hirvonen’s 92, with only two rallies remaining. “It’s getting better and better. To win here in Corsica is a great moment,” said Loeb, who won the first 11 specials to take a big lead going into the last day.

“We were much faster all rally and that’s great for me and the team,” he said. “We’ll add another two more points to our championship lead.”

The drivers’ championship may be wrapped up but there will be no let-up from Loeb – especially after Ford’s strong podium finish means Citroen’s lead in the constructors championship is cut to 23 points. “As regards the championship, it’s not finished and the rest of the season is still to be disputed,” said Loeb. “In Japan, there will be a new discovery (the rally moves to Sapporo for the first time) for everyone and when a rally is new it is more difficult.

“You need to be concentrated. If you are crowned champion in Japan, you can travel to Great Britain (for the final race) relaxed with the objective to win.” Loeb’s record-setting 46th career win was also his fourth consecutive victory at the Corsica event, nicknamed the “rally of 10,000 corners” for its testing course, peppered with tight hairpin bends. It was also the Frenchman’s fifth WRC victory in a row having already triumphed in the rallies of Finland, Germany and New Zealand in August, and the Rally of Catalonia in October. After some team manoeuvres from Ford, Duval allowed team-mate Hirvonen to overtake for second in order to give the Finn greater championship points. “I’m happy with my performances over the weekend. But for sure I was not happy to get onto the podium in this way, though I understand it’s the team that decides,” said Hirvonen. “I scored more points and kept alive my chances for as long as possible in the two championships.”

Despite a difficult drive on the tricky, mountainous circuit, Ford’s Duval was delighted with his performance, which included a 12th-stage win to break Loeb’s dominant specials’ streak. “I am so happy. That’s two rallies with no mistakes and no punctures. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven such a good car on tarmac,” the Belgian said. The next rally will take place in Japan from October 31-November 2 with the season ender coming at the start of December at the Wales Rally GB.