Loeb's WRC Turkish delight
French world rally champion Sebastien Loeb extended his lead in this year’s title race by 40 points over Citroen privateer Petter Solberg with his third successive win of the year on the Rally of Turkey at the weekend.
Solberg finished second for a third consecutive podium after the Norwegian had led the event following Friday’s opening stage. Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, who lost time when he hit a rock and later punctured a tyre, was third in a Ford Focus.
Loeb stretched a 16-second overnight lead throughout Sunday’s four stages to finish 54,5 sec ahead of Solberg, who was in turn 48,9 sec ahead of Hirvonen. It was Loeb’s 57th world championship level win and he is looking good for a seventh title as he leads the championship with 93 points to Solberg’s 53 and Hirvonen’s 52. Citroen leads Ford by 15 points in the manufacturers’ championship.
Loeb’s Spanish team-mate Dani Sordo retired while almost certain of a podium finish when his Citroen C4 slid off the muddy road on stage 21 and broke its front suspension. The incident occurred in a very narrow place, which meant that a number of cars clattered into Sordo’s stranded car as they tried to get past.
Beneficiaries were Hirvonen, promoted to third, and Citroen Junior Team’s Sebastien Ogier, who had impressively led the rally from stage three until he picked up a puncture on Saturday afternoon that set him back three minutes. He was eventually fourth.
Former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen was another to benefit from Sordo’s misfortune, finishing fifth overall after setting top-10 stage times throughout the rally to record his best result since switching to the WRC this year.