Rallye Deutschland: Loeb holds on

Sebastien Loeb hung on to his overnight Rally Deutschland lead to the end, but his cool measured approach to the final stage set nerves at Citroen jangling as Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm slashed the Xsara driver's lead from 13 seconds to three on the final stage

Rallye Deutschland: Loeb holds on

The Frenchman had kept in among the top times all day, but didn't win a stage. The victories went to Markko Martin (three), Colin McRae (two) and Carlos Sainz (just the one). But in the end Loeb did enough to keep Gronholm behind to score his second win of the season.

"Last year here, it was special because it was my first victory," said Loeb. "This year, it was more difficult due to the weather conditions. Challenging Marcus Gronholm was not easy at all. I will never forget the final stages when we were so close from each other."

Gronholm's final day bid for victory got off to a poor start when the Finn overshot twice on the opening stage of the morning. The second mishap damaged a wheel and Loeb looked to be away clear.

The next twist at the top though came on the third stage of the day when rain started to fall as the top contenders were on stage. Loeb got the worst of that and Marcus edged closer, before Loeb eased away again to set up that nail-biting final stage shoot-out.

Third place was also up for grabs at the start of the day with Markko Martin in the position and facing challenges from Colin McRae and Richard Burns. McRae came out of the blocks fighting with top times on the first two stages and he immediately snatched third from a slow-starting Martin.

The Estonian looked to be up for the fight on the second stage, but then his Focus hit differential trouble which gave him rear-wheel drive only for one and a half stages.

That was it for Markko's podium ambitions and he dropped to fifth place with no chance of a reprieve this time. Wins on each of the last three stages were the only consolation.

McRae's podium bid didn't last much longer. The Scot spun on the third stage of the day and he dropped behind Burns. It was close between the pair from there on, but it was championship leader Burns who ended up with the larger points haul.

Sainz took his stage win on the rain-affected SS19, sneaking through before it got really slippery. He wound up sixth overall after a protracted tit-for-tat battle for the place with Ford's Francois Duval. The squabble was effectively decided on the startline of the final stage when Duval stalled.

The Belgian held onto seventh place and the final point went to Petter Solberg, whose Subaru looked more competitive today than it had been all rally.

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