Sebastien Loeb Wins Rally Ireland
The Frenchman returned to Ireland as winner of the 2007 event and ended all days on top of the overall classification. He made the wrong choice of tires on Friday and lost more then 40 seconds to Latvala, but he eased into 2nd place – behind Stobart Ford’s Urmo Aava – after the Finnish driver had to retire due to a steering problem.
A few stages later, Aava himself had to call it a day after losing control of his car and being thrown out of the road. From that point on, Loen dominated almost all stages of the next couple of days, maintaining more than one minute ahead of 2nd place Dani Sordo (Citroen Total teammate) at all time.
“It was a really tough rally, I'm really happy to take these 10 points here. Tarmac is important for me, and a difficult rally like this is tricky for everyone. I could have made a mistake, but no, we are here and we won the rally. I will try to continue like this,” said Loeb after winning the season opener in Ireland.
“It's a really, really good result to start the year. I'm really happy for me and for the team - it's a great weekend. The conditions were really bad and there were some crazy stages with the water,” admitted Sordo.
Ford works’ only driver left to battle the big guys, Mikko Hirvonen, admitted that it was a tough rally to begin with, especially since it was an all-tarmac event, not his favorite surface. After losing the battle for 2nd to Sordo by a long shot, he promissed he’ll do better in Norway, the very place where the championship is really going to start for him.
The battle for 4th place between Henning Solberg (Stobart Ford) and Chris Atkinson (Citroen Junior Team) was won by the former, as the Aussie made the wrong choice of tires on the dying stages of Sunday to eventually settle for 5th place. Still a great performance for the driver who only got to test a Citroen C4 weeks before the start of the season.
Sebastien Ogier was the only rookie driver to make the points in Rally Ireland, as the young Frenchman finished the event in 6th place. He was followed by Stobart’s Matthew Wilson and Ford works’ driver Khalid Al Qassimi, who scored his first ever point inside the WRC.
Aava, who went back into the game on Saturday after using the SuperRally rule, eventually finished the season opener in 10th place, less than one-and-a-half minute to Qassimi.
Here are the Top 10 drivers and time gaps between them at the end of Rally Ireland:
1. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 2h48:25.7
2. Dani Sordo (Citroen) + 1:27.9
3. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) + 2:07.8
4. Henning Solberg (Ford) + 6:32.4
5. Chris Atkinson (Citroen) + 7:51.9
6. Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) + 10:44.0
7. Matthew Wilson (Ford) + 11:23.8
8. Khalid Al Qassimi (Ford) + 14:07.9
9. Eamonn Boland (Subaru) + 15:23.4
10. Urmo Aava (Ford) + 15:35.4