When Sebastien Loeb won Rallye Deutschland for the seventh time in 2008 he equaled Marcus Gronholm's record for the most wins on a world championship event.
With the Trier-based rally not running in 2009, organizers used the intervening 12 months to tweak the itinerary, adding a new stage and increasing the competitive distance by more than 50km.
But while the event format had changed, there was a familiar face standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon as Sebastien Loeb swept to his eighth victory on the punishing asphalt roads through Germany's Mosel and Saarland regions, to add another record to his impressive list of achievements.
Driving a Citroën C4 World Rally Car on Pirelli's P Zero tire, the six-time world champion was fastest on nine of the event's 19 special stages, which covered a total distance of 407.31 competitive kilometers, making it the longest round of the WRC so far this season. His win, alongside co-driver Daniel Elena, was his 59th in the world championship.
After beating Citroën team-mate Dani Sordo by 51.3 seconds in the final standings, Loeb said: "It's a good win for me and I'm really pleased, but I have to say this was not my best victory in Germany. The weather was dry from the start so the conditions were not as difficult as they have been in the past. That meant there was less pressure on me and less satisfaction to have won. But it was still not easy because this is always a difficult rally with lots of surface changes. However, I had no problems with my tires and the wear rate was good, even on the [48km Panzeplatte] stage."
As well as remaining dry, hot sunshine covered the rally route throughout the weekend, with ambient temperatures peaking at 88? Fahrenheit, and the ground temperature rising to 104? Fahrenheit on Saturday afternoon.
Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo had a fault-free race on their first outing together and rounded off the team's triumph. This event also saw the 32nd win by the C4 WRC, equalling the Xsara WRC's score to put it among the most successful cars in the history of rallying.
The Citroen Total World Rally Team drivers opted for consistency rather than sheer speed and their only aim was to see the finish. "It's not always obvious, but we wanted to consolidate our positions as far as it was possible," said Loeb in the mid-leg service halt. "On soft rubber we had more grip on the few damp sections and we were ready to cope with possible showers."
"The outcome was decided yesterday in the Panzerplatte stage," confirmed Sordo. "Today we had nothing to gain and everything to lose. The double that looked on the cards would be a great coup for Citroën in the context of the World Championship for Manufacturers."
Like the first run though the stages, the second one enabled the Citroën drivers to make the double an ever greater reality. In front of a crowd that was rooting for him, Loeb put on a show in the Circus Maximus stage and crossed the finishing line victorious for the eight consecutive time. "It's always a great pleasure to win here. I love driving the C4 WRC on asphalt and it's all the more motivating when you're in front of such a large, enthusiastic crowd!" laughed the six-time world champion. "Once again I was able to count on a perfect, quick and reliable car that really got the best out of the tires; this is my fifth win in 2010 and brings me one step closer to my ultimate aim - my seventh world title on the trot."
"I'm very happy with this rally, my first with Diego Vallejo in the right-hand seat," added Sordo, second in Rally Germany for the third time. "Sebastien was just a tad quicker than me on a regular basis. There was nothing between us on the first day until he made the break in the longest stage. This being said, I met the team's expectations and helped it open up a bigger gap in the Manufacturers' Championship."
"Citroën monopolized the podium as in Mexico, Portugal and Bulgaria," added Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Racing Team Principal. "Of course, our only aim in this rally was victory, but it's always a very powerful feeling. For Citroën Racing, the fact that the C4 WRC has equalled the Xsara's score is also a big thrill. Thirty-two successes in 52 rallies - and counting!"
At the end of a perfectly-controlled Rallye Deutschland, the Citroën Junior Team scored a podium for the first time on an asphalt FIA World Rally Championship event. Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia finished third behind the two factory Citroën C4 WRCs.
Junior team driver Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindstrom finished seventh, having claimed their first fastest stage time in the WRC.
"We had to go quickly in order to keep Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala behind us," reported Sebastien Ogier after the first two stages of the day. "With just a 16-second cushion, third place is far from won. We managed to slightly increase that gap though by following the split times."
On the second loop, Sebastien Ogier reinforced his position to claim his very first asphalt podium at the finish and his fifth podium of the season. "This was an excellent result," he concluded. "Our objective was to finish behind the two factory Citroën C4 WRCs and now we have achieved our goal. So this was a very positive way to finish. I'd like to thank the entire team for a brilliant job well done."
Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström started the final day with a set-up that was a little too soft. "I overshot two junctions and we lost a lot of time," recounted the Finn. The crew continued to push hard right up to the end, setting their first fastest stage time on the final Circus Maximus Trier stage (SS19). "I'm disappointed at having made the mistake in the morning that cost us a place," said Raikkonen. "But I enjoyed the stages on Saturday and Sunday. We're continuing to rack up experience and that's very important."
Team manager Benoit Nogier concluded: "We've got to the finish of a long and complicated rally with a very solid performance. Competing on their first Rallye Deutschland in a WRC machine, Sebastien and Julien are on the podium. At the start of the season we were just aiming for some podiums on gravel. Our goals have already largely been achieved, with a podium on asphalt to add to our tally as well now. Sebastien and Julien did a great job, coping well with the pressure when they had to go and get past Latvala. Their performance came pretty close to perfection, I would say. Measuring it on his terms, Kimi did virtually just as well. His mistake this morning cost him a place, but we are all delighted with his fastest stage time, which is a real morale booster. Now we're keen to get over to France, for the next asphalt rally that is going to be an unknown quantity for all the competitors."