WRC Rally Deutschland: Sebastien Loeb claims dominant ninth victory
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, August 26th 2012, 11:54 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb claimed victory in Germany for the ninth time with another dominant performance in round nine of the 2012 World Rally Championship.
The result was Loeb's fifth win in a row and his seventh of the season - and had looked certain from the outset as the Citroen driver delivered his characteristic domination of the rally where he took his maiden WRC victory a decade ago.
Loeb's victory was earned with relentless speed, a little good fortune as the timing of Saturday morning's surprise rain shower was worse for his rivals and by avoiding the errors that most of the other frontrunners made at various stages.
Nearly two minutes clear after leg two, he just had to cruise through the two runs through Dhrontal that made up most of Sunday's action, before blitzing the Trier power stage to secure a maximum score.
Jari-Matti Latvala recovered from a trip off the road at the start of leg two to take second for Ford, 2m00.1s behind Loeb and 31.3s ahead of the second Citroen of Mikko Hirvonen, who took until leg two to develop any confidence in his car.
Latvala's team-mate Petter Solberg ran a strong second until crashing on the famous Panzerplatte stage on Saturday. The same stage also ended brilliant runs from Thierry Neuville (Citroen Junior) and on the later re-run Dani Sordo (Prodrive Mini) and Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford).
Neuville and Sordo had both been in the podium fight, although the latter was delayed by a puncture on Panzerplatte one, while Tanak took his first WRC stage wins on asphalt before crashing out.
The quartet all rejoined under Rally 2, with Tanak coming out best as he made it up to ninth by the finish. Tanak's M-Sport team-mate Evgeny Novikov crashed on the rally's very first stage.
Mads Ostberg started the weekend wearing his brakes out too quickly, before adapting and finishing fourth.
Chris Atkinson drove deliberately conservatively on his debut in Motorsport Italia's Mini and came away with a surprise fifth place.
Also benefiting from the high attrition rate were Volkswagen duo Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen. Their Super 2000 Skodas finished in sixth and seventh overall on VW's home event.
Leading finishers after SS15: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h41m52.4s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2m00.1s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 2m31.4s 4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 3m24.4s 5. Chris Atkinson Italia Mini + 9m10.4s 6. Sebastien Ogier VW Skoda + 9m50.8s 7. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Skoda + 12m22.7s 8. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar Citroen + 12m50.4s 9. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 13m01.3s 10. Dani Sordo Prodrive Mini + 14m17.3s Other WRC finishers: 12. Petter Solberg Ford + 21m06.4s 13. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 23m41.9s 24. Daniel Oliveira Stohl Ford + 42m27.3s WRC retirements: Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford SS13 Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Citroen SS12 Paolo Nobre Italia Mini SS9 Martin Prokop Czech Ford SS3 Leading power stage times: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3m24.8s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 2.2s 3. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Skoda + 6.9s 4. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar Citroen + 7.6s 5. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 7.9s