Loeb clinches third Mexican victory

Sebastien Loeb has clinched a third consecutive Rally Mexico victory with a comfortable one-minute advantage over second-placed Chris Atkinson

Loeb clinches third Mexican victory

A Loeb win had looked extremely unlikely on the eve of the rally after his Citroen developed engine problems during the shakedown. He was briefly handed a five-minute penalty for changing the engine before Citroen managed to repair the fault on the original unit without affecting the FIA seals.

After early leader Jari-Matti Latvala's Ford lost turbo boost on day two, Loeb was able to dominate the second half of the rally.

"There's always a bit more pressure when you are behind in the championship," he said.

"But I expected to get a good result here in Mexico. It was not so easy, we had a big battle with Latvala, but eventually we won."

Atkinson (Subaru) had stayed in touch with Loeb until launch control and clutch issues slowed his pace on Saturday. He then drove carefully to the finish and collected a career-best result.

"It's awesome for all the guys in the team who are working hard on the new car," said Atkinson. "It's my best ever result and that's really cool. The car was faultless, thanks to everyone. Let's see if we can keep improving this car and the results."

Third was less than Latvala had hoped for when pulling away from the field on Friday, but the young Finn was still satisfied with his weekend.

"It was a great start to the rally, but unfortunately we hit a problem on Saturday," he said. "But we got the feeling back today. I really want to fight with Sebastien for the rest of the season."

Latvala's teammate Mikko Hirvonen managed to retain his championship lead, just one point ahead of Loeb, after snatching fourth from Munchi's Ford driver Henning Solberg when the Norweigan had a puncture in the penultimate stage. Hirvonen had himself suffered three punctures earlier in the event.

"I just need to find more speed to be able to fight against Sebastien and Jari-Matti," he admitted. "It's been a really difficult weekend - first the puncture on Friday then two punctures on Saturday."

Having recovered strongly from a puncture on Friday morning, Solberg was gutted to fall from fourth to fifth so close to the finish. He lost more time when a shock absorber broke in the superspecial.

"I am disappointed, but for the team it's better that Mikko is in front," he said. "I wanted to be fourth and looking at the splits it would have been very easy for me."

The rough Mexican roads took their toll on the WRC machinery from the start.

Dani Sordo (Citroen) and Gigi Galli (Stobart Ford) both retired from leg one with broken suspension, while Subaru's Petter Solberg suffered a driveshaft failure on day two while on course for fourth. Both Suzukis also fell by the wayside early on as their engine gremlins continued.

Despite being unhappy with many of his pace notes, and having his windscreen damaged by a rock thrown by a spectator on Saturday, Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson drove a measured rally to take sixth place.

The high rate of attrition allowed Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra and local privateer Ricardo Trivino to collect the final points, even though they were 20 minutes behind the leaders, while ninth and a dominant class win went to impressive Junior series debutant Sebastien Ogier.

Leading results:

Pos Driver Car Time 1. Loeb Citroen 3h33:29.9 2. Atkinson Subaru + 1:06.1 3. Latvala Ford + 1:39.7 4. Hirvonen Ford + 3:38.7 5. H Solberg Ford + 4:57.9 6. Wilson Ford + 6:28.9 7. Villagra Ford + 19:03.0 8. Trivino Ford + 21:17.3 9. Ogier Citroen + 25:24.9 10. Molder Suzuki + 26:56.8 
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Loeb on brink of Mexico win

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