Deutschland: First win for Loeb

Sebastien Loeb clinched his maiden WRC rally win in Germany today and it appears that the threat to his victory has diminished with no formal protests having been lodged. Loeb has made amends for having his Monte Carlo 'win' in January taken away for a technical infringement by dominating the first ever WRC event on German soil, leading for all but the first stage of the event

Deutschland: First win for Loeb

For a while there was a threat that Loeb's error on yesterday's final stage - when he slithered up the wrong part of the stage before turning and rejoining the correct route - would be protested but the unofficial word on the streets is that this will not now happen and Loeb will be free to celebrate tonight.

It would have been a cruel blow if Loeb was kicked out as it would have meant his final WRC event of the year went almost the same way as his first...

Had Loeb been excluded then Richard Burns would have been handed a somewhat hollow win. "I pushed as hard as I could today but there was nothing I could do about Sebastien. He put in a great drive. I'm a bit disappointed not to have won my first event for Peugeot but I feel I'm on top of the car now and with San Remo coming up then I'm pretty confident."

By contrast, fourth placed Colin McRae was less happy with the event. "The stages aren't quite like a traditional asphalt event and it wasn't so easy to find a rhythm." McRae can be happy with Loeb's win for it reduced the points advantage gained by third placed Marcus Gronholm and keeps McRae in touch with the championship leader. By contrast, Peugeot's sixth maximum points score from 10 events has taken them to within sight of their third manufacturers' title. Another maximum in San Remo next month would leave them needing just five points from New Zealand, Australia or Britain.

With Gilles Panizzi set to return for the Silver Bullets and Citroen's Red Army absent, who would back against at least a Peugeot win on the Italian asphalt? As for the drivers' title, if Ford and Pirelli can give McRae a fighting chance of running with Gronholm then Peugeot might not get a clean sweep of this season's titles. If they can't and Gronholm romps clear then there's going to be one hell of a party in New Zealand or Australia.

Mitsubishi gained a point in the makes series to move up to share fourth spot with Skoda but poor Hyundai suffered a wipe-out yesterday and may yet have to find a substitute driver for Armin Schwarz in Italy. The German is facing a race against time to recover from a broken rib sustained in a hefty shunt yesterday.

In the Junior Championship category, Francois Duval's overnight lead turned to dust when he suffered fuel pump failure today after stuffing his Ford Puma into a bank. Several other crews bit the dust today and handed the win to Daniel Sola who now has a comfortable series lead with two rounds (San Remo and Rally GB) to go.

Was Germany a success? Technically yes as the event seemed to run to time and without major dramas. On a personal level, many people were disappointed with the lack of atmosphere in Trier, a town that doesn't need to attract extra visitors at this time of year and which hardly seemed to embrace the opportunities that the WRC had to offer. Perhaps this was a symptom of the event's first year and perhaps the gloss can be added in the future.

One man, however, who doesn't care about what Trier has to offer is Sebastien Loeb for, over the past three days, he's created atmosphere of his own...

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