Loeb clinches ninth World title
LAST TEAM EFFORT: Sebastien Loeb (right) and co-driver Daniel Elena celebrate winning the Rally of Alsace in France - and Loeb taking his ninth consecutive World title. He won't complete fully in 2013. Image: AFP
Author: Gregory Blachier
HAGUENAU, France - Frenchman Sebastien Loeb secured a record ninth consecutive World Rally title on Sunday (Oct 7, 2012)when he won the Rally of France, his eighth race victory of the season.
Loeb, 38, will not defend the crown in 2013 but claimed his record 75th victory for Citroen in his birthplace of Haguenau, in eastern France.
His victory in France also gave Citroen an eighth Manufacturers' title, with his team mate Mikko Hirvonen of Finland second in the standings.
Loeb is now on 244 points in the championship table, 71 ahead of Hirvonen who finished third in France, and, with two races to go, is certain to top the standings at the end of the season.
"It has been a great moment," Loeb told reporters. "We had been dreaming of it since the weekend began, it is pure happiness.
"The season has been perfect but I want to enjoy this rather than think about this title being our last together," he added, referring to his co-driver Daniel Elena, who has been with him for the nine titles.
Loeb was in full control on the wet roads of eastern France on Sunday as he entered the race's final day with a 54sec lead over Hirvonen, his only rival for the title. He finished no better than fourth on any stage on Sunday but held his lead over second-placed Finn Jari-Matti Latvala and third-placed Hirvonen.
He took a commanding advantage on Friday, never eased up, and finished the weekend 15.5sec ahead of Ford’s Latvala and 44.1 ahead of Finland's Hirvonen.
Belgian Thierry Neuville, who won five of the six stages on Sunday, was fourth.
Loeb's team said a week earlier that their driver would not take part in all of the World championship races next season.
Result from the 2012 Rally of France on Sunday
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 3hr32min53.0
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford +0min5.5
3 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen +0min44.1
4 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Citroen +1min07.3
5 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +1min16.4
6 Ott Taenak (Estonia) Ford +2min27.9
7 Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford +5min51.6
8 Chris Atkinson (Australia) Mini +6min42.4
9 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford +8min46.8
10 Sebastien Chardonnet (France) Citroen +8min59.7