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2008-12-08 06:58

London - Five times world champion Sebastien Loeb won the season-ending Wales Rally GB on Sunday to hand Citroen the manufacturers' title and become the first driver to triumph 11 times in a single year.

The Frenchman went ahead of Ford's overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala on the final Port Talbot stage in South Wales to beat the Finn by 12.7 seconds for his first victory in the classic British event.

"This one was incredible," said Loeb, who had already clinched his fifth successive title in Japan last month, after chalking up his 48th career win.

"The ice made conditions really tricky. With no gravel crews I didn't like it and I've not been happy all weekend. But today we had a good, good fight and it was exciting to fight with Jari-Matti," he told the official wrc.com website.

Loeb roared through the penultimate Rheola stage and would have seized the lead there had he not collected a 10 second penalty for starting too early, leaving him still 2.2 seconds adrift of the Finn with 20km remaining.

Throwing caution to the wind, Loeb was 4.9 seconds quicker than Latvala on the final run to end Ford's hopes of a third manufacturers' title in a row.

Organisers later rescinded Loeb's 10-second penalty after onboard camera footage showed he had started the stage at the correct time.

"Finally we won and it's a very good feeling," said the Frenchman, who ended the year with 122 points from a maximum 150 available.

Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, winner in Britain last year, finished overall runner-up with 103 points after crossing the line eighth on Sunday.

Loeb's Spanish team mate Dani Sordo was third in Wales, one minute and seven seconds behind Latvala who was gracious in defeat.

"The better man won today," said the Ford driver. "I tried to go as fast as I could. I couldn't do any better."

Norway's former world champion Petter Solberg was fourth for Subaru with Suzuki's Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson matching his team's best result in fifth place.

Italy's MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi made it to the finish in 12th place in a Ford Focus, more than 13 minutes slower than Loeb.

Citroen ended the season with 191 points to Ford's 173 with Subaru third on 98.


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