Preview: Loeb Looks to Finish Job

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb will try to block out recent tragedy as he bids to secure his second world title at the Rally of Japan, which begins on Friday

Preview: Loeb Looks to Finish Job

Loeb is a firm favourite to retain his title, but the death of Briton Michael Park, a co-driver for Peugeot's Markko Martin, at the Rally of Britain earlier this month has cast a pall over the championship run-in.

"I'm trying not to think about Cardiff too much and no one has really talked about it since we arrived in Japan," Loeb said on Thursday.

"My priority in Japan is to win the title. If you look at all the rallies I have raced in this season, I should be able to win the title here."

Third place in Hokkaido, Japan's northern island, would make make the title mathematically safe.

Loeb's nearest rival in the drivers' standings is Subaru's Petter Solberg.

Estonian Martin, who was uninjured in the crash that killed Park, will miss the race in Japan, the 13th round of the 16-race championship.

Park died when their Peugeot skidded off the road at high speed and crashed into a tree during the 15th stage of the race.

It was the first fatal accident in the championship for more than a decade.

Time Penalties

The final stages of the race were cancelled and race leader Loeb took deliberate time penalties to ensure he did not win the title in such circumstances.

Norwegian Solberg claimed his fourth British win in a row as a result.

Newly-wed Loeb, who has won a record eight out of 12 races this year, has 99 points in the drivers' championship with Solberg on 65. Finland's Marcus Gronholm has 61.

Conditions on a technically demanding course in Japan are unlikely to assist Solberg and Peugeot's Gronholm in their bid to catch Loeb.

Despite the sombre mood surrounding the race, Loeb pledged to finish the job in Japan this week.

"We should try to focus on the race," said Loeb, who could move to Ford next year. "Everyone is trying to put what happened into the past, even if we can't forget it.

"We must try not to think about it too much because Japan is a dangerous event too."

Loeb added: "It's narrow and very fast. I feel very calm...but I just have to make sure I don't get into trouble. It's a really big chance for me."

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