The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew clinched the title, despite having to retire on the final day of the rally. Their DS3 WRC was involved in a collision with a car travelling in the opposite direction on a liaison section of the event. Nobody was injured, but the damage forced Loeb to retire, ending his duel for the rally win with Jari-Matti Latvala.
“It’s a pity because I wish I could have finished the battle with Jari-Matti. We were on a narrow road and we came upon a car on the top of a crest where there was no visibility. The Spanish driver pulled into the right and we collided,” explained Sébastien Loeb. “The radiator was damaged and we were out on the spot. It’s proof that a rally isn’t over until you’re back in parc fermé!”
After recovering the car, the technical team did everything necessary to make it presentable for the podium at Cardiff castle. “We won’t let this spoil the party,” said Frédéric Banzet, the Citroën General Manager. “Sébastien, Daniel and Citroën Racing have achieved a remarkable season. Ten victories in 13 rallies, the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles, new records set: the whole team has more than fulfilled the expectations of the company. These victories and titles have helped embed rallying a little deeper in Citroën’s genes!”
“We haven’t had time to celebrate the title as we were involved in the rally. Again this morning, we had to get up at 4:30am to tackle the stages,” added Loeb. “but now we can celebrate at last with the whole team. All the titles are important and memorable because they’re never put together the same way. This season, the overall level was very high and we had to fight right down until the last rally. I’m proud to have become the most-titled racing driver because I never thought I’d achieve this when I started my career!”
Meanwhile, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won Wales Rally GB for Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and Fiesta RS World Rally Cars powered to a 1-2-3 finish on the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Finns claimed their fifth world rally victory, and their first since July last year, with the Fiesta RS WRC taking eight of the top nine places in the demanding four-day event.
Latvala won by 3min 42.9sec after winning 11 of the 23 speed tests in the muddy Welsh forests. He led home Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor from the privately-entered M-Sport Stobart Ford squad, who shared the podium with the Ford works team.
Heavy rain turned the gravel forest tracks to muddy. Grip was at a premium during the opening two days, before brighter weather generated better conditions for the final two legs.
The event covered the length of Wales and after starting at Llandudno in the north on Thursday afternoon, competitors tackled 353km of competitive stages before the finish in Cardiff in the south.
Latvala felt unwell during the first full day of competition, but his pace improved with his health, ending the leg just 1.1sec from the lead after a thrilling duel with Sébastien Loeb.
The 26 year-old Latvala moved ahead of Loeb on Saturday afternoon, but a slender 6.1sec advantage meant there was still everything to fight for during Sunday’s final six special stages in the Brecon Beacon mountains and over the Epynt military ranges.
Latvala widened his lead during the opening stage, but when Loeb was forced to retire following an accident on public roads between stages, the Ford Abu Dhabi driver measured his pace over the remaining tests. Nevertheless, he won two more stages en route to the finish at Cardiff Castle.
“It’s a great way to end the season,” he admitted. “It has been a long time since my last win and I’ve endured some frustrating times since then, but they’re now over. Everything came together during the second half of the season and I’m pleased to win here. It’s my 10th Rally GB and it’s where I began my WRC career in 2002, so it feels like a home event for me.
“When Seb retired this morning, the pressure lifted from my shoulders. I eased my pace and didn’t take any risks, although the change from driving flat out to driving more cautiously was tricky. But I found a rhythm and kept my concentration, which isn’t easy when you’re not driving on the limit. The team did a great job all year and this was a brilliant way to close the season,” he added.
Latvala also won the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award in recognition of his performance.
Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson said Latvala’s victory provided consolation for the team after team-mate Hirvonen’s hopes of securing the drivers’ world title ended early with retirement on Friday, leaving Loeb to win the championship even though he didn’t complete the event.
Loeb’s team-mate, Sébastien Ogier co-driven by Julien Ingrassia, finished the event in 11th place after taking three stage wins on the final day. They rejoined the event in 73rd position on day two, under super rally regulations, following a crash on the opening stages. They battled through to finish just outside the top 10. Taking three points on the power stage also secured the crew third place in the overall championship standings.
Of the other Ford teams, Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson claimed their second runners-up spot of the season for the M-Sport Stobart Ford team, while team-mates Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor recorded their best result of the year in third.
Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin finished fifth, ahead of Ott Tänak/Kuldar Sikk, whose career-best sixth place marked an outstanding debut in a Fiesta RS WRC.
FERM Power Tools crew Dennis Kuipers/Frederic Miclotte were eight, while Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino completed the Fiesta RS WRC cavalcade in ninth.
Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek completed the Fiesta RS WRC finishers in 22nd place, completing the rally under SupeRally rules after retiring on Friday with suspension damage.
Loeb and Elena’s records in the World Rally Championship:
Number of victories: 67
Victories per start percentage: 44.3%
Victories in a season: 11 2008 (Monte-Carlo, Mexico, Argentina, Sardinia, Acropolis, Finland, Germany, New Zealand,Spain, France, Great Britain)
Number of victories in the same rally: Germany 8, Spain 7, Argentina 6, Mexico and Monte-Carlo 5, Cyprus and Sardinia 4, Turkey 3
Number of podiums: 103
Number of consecutive podiums: 15 Between Sardinia 2008 and Argentina 2009
Points scored: 1281
Number of consecutive finishes in the points: 28 Poland 2009 to Australia 2011
Number of stage wins: 808
Number of starts
1. Carlos Sainz 196
2. Petter Solberg 174
3. Juha Kankkunen 162
4. Didier Auriol 152
5. Marcus Grönholm 152
6. Sébastien Loeb 151
Final positions Rally GB
|1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila||FIN||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 27min 03.5sec|
|2. M Østberg/J Andersson||NOR||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 30min 46.4sec|
|3. H Solberg/I Minor||NOR||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 34min 08.6sec|
|4. K Meeke/P Nagle||GBR||Mini John Cooper||3hr 34min 15.8sec|
|5. M Wilson/S Martin||GBR||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 36min 00.8sec|
|6. O Tänak/K Sikk||EST||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 36min 30.6sec|
|7. E Novikov/D Giraudet||RUS||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 36min 51.2sec|
|8. D Kuipers/F Miclotte||NLD||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 37min 16.2sec|
|9. K Block/A Gelsomino||USA||Ford Fiesta RS||3hr 43min 04.7sec|
|10. A Araújo/M Ramalho||POR||Mini John Cooper||3hr 44min 05.1sec|