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WRC NEWS 

Loeb: Incident was unavoidable

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, Rally PolandSebastien Loeb said he had no chance to avoid the tree stump that took him out of the first day of the Rally Poland.

The world champion was battling for the lead with title rival Mikko Hirvonen when he ripped his Citroen C4's right front wheel off on the stump just over a kilometre into SS4.

"There was a layer of sand on the road and at a certain point a small tree stump, about 20 centimetres, which was covered by sand," Loeb told AUTOSPORT.

"I was not able to avoid it. I heard it when the front right wheel hit it.

"It wasn't a particularly big impact but enough to ruin the suspension."

Loeb said he was not yet sure if he would rejoin under superally rules tomorrow. If he does so, he would be 20 minutes behind the leaders once the penalties for not finishing SS4 and missing SS5-7 are added.

"I've been pretty quick to put myself out of contention, haven't I?" Loeb said. "This time it's gone badly for me. We'll have to see about tomorrow."

The incident is the third straight problem for Loeb, who had been contemplating a clean sweep of victories in this year's World Rally Championship after winning the first five events of the season.

But his run of success ended when he had to stop and change a damaged tyre in Sardinia and received a penalty because co-driver Daniel Elena released his seatbelts while the car was still in motion, leaving the pair fourth at the finish. Worse followed when Loeb crashed heavily on the second day in Greece a fortnight ago.

Those disasters and Hirvonen's Acropolis win mean that the Finn is now just seven points behind Loeb in the standings and could end the Rally Poland weekend as the championship leader.

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