Loeb Wins For The First Time In New Zealand
Loeb Wins For The First Time In New Zealand
Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has won Propecia Rally New Zealand, securing his first win in 3 attempts and in doing so has closed to just one point behind Subaru’s Petter Solberg in the Drivers World Championship.
Loeb controlled the final day after beginning with a commanding lead of 51.9 seconds, knowing that it would take a mechanical failure or driver error to let the chasing pack in. Both Loeb and his Citroen Xsara were superb on the final day however, with a final winning margin of 49.8 seconds.
As if to underline his dominance, Loeb incredibly posted yet another Special Stage record on the final stage (20) through the Whaanga Coast.
Understandably, Loeb was elated.
“I’m very happy to win here, it’s one of the most exciting rallies, and to win with Marcus and Petter behind was very good. It’s looking better now we have had two rallies with problems and now it seems to be good.”
Better news was to follow for Citroen with Francois Duval finishing in fourth place and allowing them to leap frog Ford, Mitsubishi and Subaru into second place in the Manufacturers championship.
The Belgian was more than pleased with his efforts.
“For me it was a very good day, I’m happy now to finish inside the points for me and Citroen. I hope it will be good for the rest of the season.”
In second place was Marcus Gronholm, the Peugeot driver more than happy to win his battle with Petter Solberg’s Subaru.
“Always it seems to be difficult but at least we have kept Solberg behind and he has won rallies this year. Loeb seems to have a small advantage with the tyres.”
Solberg also was typically upbeat after some earlier struggles with tyre choice.
“It was better than I expected on the first day but obviously we have struggled on this hard surface. I’m very happy with third place. We have worked hard on the car since Mexico.”
Top Ten Overall Classification
Sebastien Loeb/D Elena F/MC Citroen Xsara 3:34:51.6
Marcus Gronholm/ T Rautiainen Fin/Fin Peugeot 307 +49.8
Petter Solberg/P Mills N/GB Subaru Impreza +1:08.7
Francois Duval/S Prevot B/B Citroen Xsara +2:06.3
Markko Martin/M Park EE/GB Peugeot 307 +3:09.1
Tony Gardemeister/J Honkanen Fin/Fin Ford Focus RS +3:16.3
Chris Atkinson/G MacNeall Aus/Aus Subaru Impreza +4:37.2
Gigi Galli//G D’Amore I/I Mitsubishi Lancer +6:50.5
Harri Rovanpera/R Pietilainen Fin/Fin Mitsubishi Lancer +7:44.6
Manfred Stohl/I Minor A/A Citroen Xsara +8.15.5
World Championship Points
Petter Solberg 26 Peugeot 43
Sebastian Loeb 25 Citroen 31
Markko Martin 23 Subaru 28
Marcus Gronholm 20 Ford 26
Tony Gardemeister 20 Mitsubishi 24
Harri Rovanpera 11 Skoda 4
Group N was a fierce battle throughout but eventually it was Australian Cody Crocker that came through in his Subaru Impreza WRX to claim victory by less than 8 seconds from Xavier Pons in his Mitsubishi with a further 10 seconds back to early pace setter Toshihiro Arai.
Pons was brilliant on the final run through the Whaanga Coast, pipping Crocker by more than 20 seconds and Arai by 18 seconds to claim honours in the PWRC class from Aria (Crocker is not eligible for PWRC points).
Group N Top Five
Cody Crocker/D Moscatt Aus/Aus Subaru Impreza 3:49:52.6
*Xavier Pons/O Julia E/E Mitsubishi Lancer 3:50:00.3
*Toshihiro Aira/T Sircumbe J/NZ Subaru Impreza 3:50:17.3
*Marcos Ligato/Garcia RA/RA Subaru Impreza 3:50:55.4
*Nasser Al-Attiyah/Patterson QA/GB Subaru Impreza 3:50:57.5
World Championship Points – PWRC
Toshihiro Arai/T Sircombe J/NZ Subaru Impreza 18
Xavier Pons/O Julia E/E Mitsubishi Lancer 15
Angelo Medeghini/B Capoferri I/I Mitsubishi Lancer 8
Fabio Frisiero I Subaru Impreza 6
Marcos Ligato/Garcia RA/RA Subaru Impreza 6
First New Zealander
Mitsubishi driver Mark Tapper held on to win the coveted title of first Kiwi in Rally NZ, with Emma Gilmour just a tick over 3 minutes behind. Tapper claimed 22nd overall and Gilmour 27th, also in a Mitsubishi.
Malcolm Stewart was third Kiwi and 30th overall in another Mitsubishi.
Tapper and co-driver Jeff Judd take away the prestigious John Woolf and Grant Whittaker Memorial Trophy for their efforts.
Resident New Zealanders Top Three
Mark Tapper/J Judd NZ/NZ Mitsubishi Lancer 3:56:26.3
Emma Gilmour/C Randell NZ/Aus Mitsubishi Lancer 3:59:26.8
Malcolm Stewart/M Fletcher NZ/NZ Mitsubishi Lancer 4:07:01.7
For further details visit http://www.rallynz.org.nz