Germany: Loeb cleans up

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken his fifth rally victory of the season after dominating the action at this weekend's Rally Deutschland. Ford's Francois Duval put up a brave fight to the Frenchman but had to settle for second spot ahead of Citroen's Carlos Sainz. Loeb has now extended his lead in the championship to 32 points after Subaru's Petter Solberg retired on the second leg

Germany: Loeb cleans up

Loeb led the action in Germany from the second stage of the first leg on Friday never once relinquishing his lead, instead extending it with every stage. First he had his team-mate Sainz to contend with, but after Duval hunted the Spaniard down at the end of the second leg it was the Belgian Loeb had to watch.

Duval began the final leg on a mission setting the second quickest time in the first stage of the day - SS18 - which Peugeot's Freddy Loix won, before winning SS19, SS21 and SS22. Duval gradually ate into Loeb's lead, but the Frenchman responded and while not taking a stage win on the final day, he did enough to keep Duval at bay eventually finishing the rally 29.1s ahead of the Ford ace.

"I've really enjoyed the weekend because the weather and roads were so similar to rallies at home in Belgium," Duval said. "The conditions were very difficult, but I've learned a lot and made big progress here. I pushed hard today and really believe I could have won if it had not been for our time loss on Friday. The roads here are unlike anything else in the championship and we've had rain, fog, mud and even a little sunshine. It's been a tough challenge and second is a superb result for me and the team."

It was a rally dictated by appalling weather, with some drivers even calling the tracks 'undriveable'. It came down to choosing the correct tyres for this the first asphalt rally of the season and it was this that guaranteed podium positions for Citroen and Ford's Duval.

Both Loeb and Sainz opted for the softer Michelin tyres for the weekend, a wise decision given the wet and slippery roads. Duval likewise opted for the softer tread allowing him to keep his nose in the Citroen action at the front. His Ford team-mate, Markko Martin, who finished the rally fourth a massive 2m40s off the pace, chose the same tyre but didn't have as heavy a cut on his tyres as Duval had. It proved costly.

By contrast, Subaru's Petter Solberg opted for a medium Pirelli compound which he thought would help him in the later drier stages. The Norwegian didn't get a chance to prove it though for he crashed out during the torrential rain in the early stages of leg two.

"At the moment, I'm not feeling good, and, for sure, the accident wasn't fun, but I'm not too stressed," Solberg said. "There's a long way still to go in the championship and we'll be back again in Japan. We'll be putting on a good show on the gravel, so just watch us go, as we'll be going for the win."

He covered more ground than double-world champion Marcus Gronholm though. The Peugeot driver crashed out on the first corner of the first stage losing his wheel and forcing him out of the rally. The Finn returned to the rally under the SupeRally system winning the final two stages of the event.

With Gronholm out, it was down to Peugeot's other points-nominated driver Cedric Robert to bring points home for the French team. The Frenchman was in the action from the off, but slipped to eighth at the end of the first leg. With a stage win on the second leg on Saturday though, Robert made his way back up the order to finish fifth ahead of his team-mate Freddy Loix.

Skoda's Toni Gardemeister took advantage of the wet conditions that favour the Fabia to take seventh spot and two points for his team while works Subaru driver Mikko Hirvonen snuck into the final points position to stages from the end of the rally to drop French favourite Stephane Sarrazin to ninth.

Mitsubishi hopeful Gilles Panizzi was having a strong rally after finishing the first leg in sixth, but the Frenchman crashed on the first stage of the second leg which forced him out of the event.

"We hit a small tree, which spun us downhill through a field until we hit another tree and stopped," Panizzi said. "The impact was very heavy on my side, but the car stood up to it well. We have both walked away from it just sore and bruised. It was bad luck for us, but on the positive side we showed the asphalt potential of the car and demonstrated we are moving in the right direction."

Day 3am: Loeb out front

Previous article

Day 3am: Loeb out front

Next article

Peugeot's B-team flies flag

Peugeot's B-team flies flag
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Plus

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

Aug 24, 2021
How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium Plus

How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Plus

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Plus

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

Aug 7, 2021