Sebastien Loeb near-certain to be champion as Mikko Hirvonen retires from day one
||Friday, November 11th 2011, 11:18 GMT
Sebastien Loeb now looks assured of the 2011 World Rally title after Mikko Hirvonen was forced to retire from Friday's stages.
Hirvonen was holding a narrow lead over Loeb as they started SS7 this morning, but sustained damage to his Ford on the Dyfnant stage and lost nearly four minutes, falling to 13th place.
He attempted to get back to the midday service for repairs, only to have to stop on the road section as the damage was too severe.
Loeb's title is not yet totally secure, as Hirvonen could potentially rejoin for tomorrow under superally rules. But even if he is able to do so, the Finn will pick up 20 minutes of penalties for missing this afternoon's stages, so requires a miracle turnaround to get high enough up the order to overcome Loeb's current eight-point lead.
At present, Loeb leads the rally by 17.7s over the remaining works Ford of Jari-Matti Latvala.