Loeb storms to Finnish win Sebastien Loeb drove to a magnificent Rally Finland victory - the second of his career and significantly against expectation to extend his WRC points advantage after he overcame Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier as he broke away from a tight battle between the trio on the final morning Saturday.
All three did their utmost ensure they would not run first on the road on Saturday, but Loeb drew the short straw and led the way. He however had little problem in opening his lead to 10 seconds and then went about defending that advantage despite the expected disadvantage of running first on the road. Loeb is the first non-Scandinavian ever to win the Rally Finland twice.
"It feels very good - a very difficult race," the seven-time world rally champion admitted "We cleaned the road for three days and finally we were still the fastest in the end. "We had to really fight until the end so it may be the greatest win." The Frenchman had predicted a difficult rally and said he would be rather looking for a strong finish before the event, but still he proved indomitable once the rally started
Ogier was unlucky to lose second to Latvala with a late puncture that forced him to drive carefully thereafter as he lacked further spare tires. Latvala was never quite able to match the Citroens' pace although he did refine his set-up throughout to close the gap to Loeb. "I just woke up a little too late for the rally," Latvala explained. "It's been a great really and I've really been enjoying it - of course it's a little disappointing because I wanted to win and I couldn't get it."
His Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was probably the star of the rally as he fought back after losing two minutes and dropping 36th overall Thursday evening before mounting a brilliant charge back to fourth, just 1m09 seconds off the lead and claiming the bonus points with the power stage win.
Petter Solberg was fifth after never quite having the pace to challenge for victory, with Stobart Ford teammates Mads Ostberg in sixth keeping Henning Solberg at bay in seventh, while Solberg and Matthew Wilson in eighth enjoyed a rally-long battle with of Kimi Raikkonen's ninth-placed Citroen.
S2000 winner Juho Hanninen was tenth after both Minis retired overheating after Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke had run comfortably in the top eight while local wildcards Jari Ketomaa and Matti Rantanen starred early on with Ketomaa even leading briefly before both crashed out.
WRC Rally Finland - Results (Top 10)
Power stage: Hirvonen Championship standings Positions after Finland (Top 10)
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