Sunday wrap : Loeb's six appeal
In doing so, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena have increased their lead at the top of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia. It was the factory Citroen duo’s second victory of the season and their 69th in the WRC.
“I am very happy,” said Loeb. “I always win here! It is a great result for the team as well, with Mikko [Hirvonen] finishing second, a one-two for us.”
Behind Hirvonen, who won the monster 54.30-kilometre Guanajuatito test, Power Stage winner Petter Solberg claimed the final place on the podium following a dramatic closing morning on the gravel stages around host city Leon.
Solberg’s factory Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was on course to finish third having recovered from a host of setbacks earlier in the event only for disaster to strike on Guanajuatito when went off the road he rolled after getting distracted when Evgeny Novikov crashed ahead of him.
Although Latvala was able to limp to the stage finish, damage to the roll cage of his Fiesta was too severe to the extent he was unable to tackle the final two stages of the event, forcing his second retirement of the 2012 season.
“I saw from far away Novikov’s car and I was very confused,” said the Finn. “I first thought the car was on the road and I made a movement to avoid it and my car went off and rolled. It took a lot to get it back on the road.”
Mads Ostberg survived a puncture on Guanajuatito to finish a strong fourth in his Adapta Fiesta with Ott Tanak fifth for M-Sport and Nasser Al-Attiyah sixth for the Qatar World Rally Team.
Armindo Araujo was seventh for WRC Team MINI Portugal, one place ahead of Sebastien Ogier, who claimed his and Volkswagen Motorsport’s first points of 2012.
Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block took ninth with Ricardo Trivino finishing as the top Mexican in 10th overall to finally bag his first WRC point, four years after he was excluded from a points finish on the same event due to a rules infringement.
Countryman Benito Guerra finished 11th overall for his maiden victory in the Production Car World Rally Championship with category rival Nicolas Fuchs next up in his similar Mitsubishi Lancer. Michal Kosciuszko continues to lead the PWRC standings by returning under Rally 2 regulations to finish third in class and 14th overall.
Citroen Junior driver Thierry Neuville started the final day by claiming his first stage victory in the WRC when he went fastest on the Leon Autodromo Super Special. He made it to the finish in 13th position following his return to the action under Rally 2 on Saturday morning.
Chris Atkinson restarted on the final day but retired his Monster-backed Fiesta on Guanajuatito with damaged suspension.