Sbastien Loeb pulled four points away from his closest rival in the World Rally Championship at the weekend, as the reigning World Champion headed a Citron 1-2 finish in New Zealand. In so doing, the French Manufacturer claimed its 50th WRC victory and extended its lead in the WRC Manufacturers' points.
Loeb and fellow Citron driver Dani Sordo had been running third and fourth on the last day, but Loeb closed on the leaders until he was 15.3sec behind with just two stages remaining.
Maintaining the pressure on the Ford Focus drivers ahead of them paid off, and eventually both Citron drivers were able to capitalize when both Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala hit problems in their Fords.
"We were aware the gap was probably too big to bridge under normal circumstances but we never gave up and our efforts paid off," said Loeb. "It's becoming something of a tradition for the last day of this rally to produce nail-biting finishes!"
Citron Sport Team Manager Olivier Quesnel was delighted with the result. "Victory is never in the bag until the finish line! Everybody in the team responded as the weekend unfolded and that put our two crews in a strong position on the last day. That in turn enabled them to push their rivals into making mistakes."
Citron's first WRC win came on Rally Catalunya in 1999 where Philippe Bugalski and Jean-Paul Chiaroni won in the Citroen Xsara Kit-Car. Loeb and Elena have claimed 44 of the manufacturer's 50 wins, making them World Rallying's greatest ever driver/co-driver pairing.
Final leaderboard on 38th Repco Rallye New Zealand
1. S Loeb/D Elena (Citron C4) 3h 59min 18.9sec
2. D Sordo/M Mart (Citron C4) + 17.5sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Focus) + 41.5sec
4. P Solberg/P Mills (Subaru Impreza) + 2min 56.6sec
5. U Aava/K Sikk (Citron C4) + 3min 49.8sec
6. PG Andersson/J Andersson (Suzuki X4) + 4min 31sec
FIA WRC Manufacturer Standings after round 11 of 15
1st: Citron-Total, 141pts
2nd: Ford, 121 pts
3rd: Subaru, 74 pts
4th: Stobart, 51 pts
5th: Munchi's, 22 pts
6th: Suzuki, 20 pts
FIA WRC Driver Standings after round 11 of 15
1st: S. Loeb, 86 pts
2nd: M. Hirvonen, 78 pts
3rd: D. Sordo, 51 pts
4th: C. Atkinson, 40 pts
5th: JM. Latvala, 34 pts
6th: P. Solberg, 32 pts
Citroen's 50 WRC wins
Citroen's first win was with Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni (Citron Xsara Kit-Car), on Rally Catalunya, 1999. Since then, the 50 wins were as follows:
44 wins with Sbastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: 16 in the C4 WRC and 28 in the Xsara WRC.
2 wins with Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti: Turkey, 2003 (1st win on gravel for the Xsara), and Argentina 2004.
2 wins with Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni: Catalunya and Tour de Corse, 1999 (Citron Xsara Kit-Car).
1 win with Jesus Puras/Marc Marti: the Citron Xsara WRC's first World Championship win (Tour de Corse, 2001).
1 win for Franois Duval/Sven Smeet (Australia, 2005).
Citron Sport currently holds the record for the highest number of WRC wins in a single season: 11 (2005). Lancia took 10 wins in 1988.
Citron World Rally Championship titles
Manufacturers' 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Drivers' (with Sbastien Loeb/Daniel Elena): 2004, 2005 and 2007 (plus 2006 with the non-works Kronos Citron Xsara WRC).
Wins per manufacturer since 1973, the inaugural year of the Manufacturers' Championship:
Lancia 74 wins
Toyota and Mitsubishi 34