Loeb Tops Rally Finland Shakedown

With only 4 rounds to go and every single point bearing great importance in the title fight between Ford's Mikko Hirvonen and Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, the latter today made a clear statement on his plans for this weekend's Rally Finland.

Returning to the scene where he became the first non-Scandinavian driver to win the Rally of 1000 Lakes since 1951 (in 2008), Loeb set the fastest time in the pre-event shakedown on Thursday. The Frenchman completed the 3.76km gravel stage – about 6 km away from the Service Park in Jyvaskyla – with the best time of 2 minutes and 2.2 seconds, some 0.4 seconds faster than second placed Petter Solberg.

The Norwegian, still driving a 2-year old Citroen Xsara, led the majority of the 4-hour stage, but had to settle for the runner-up spot after Loeb's final attempt. The podium was completed by Citroen's second driver Dani Sordo, who stopped the clock at 2:03.3.

There's no strategy and no tactics; we're in Finland and the only thing you can do here is push - so that's what we will try to do. Last year it worked out for us, but to push on the limit like we plan to, we have to be completely confident with the car,” said Loeb, according to a Q&A session reported by the WRC site.

I think when Citroen saw my time in an old Xsara they sent Sebastien back out with warm tires to try and beat me,” joked Solberg, who continued: “I was really pleased with my time, actually - the session went well. But the stage was twisty and loose so it suited my car and I could attack more - it's very different to the real stages.”

Championship leader Hirvonen only managed the 5th best time of the day (as did Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg), as he'll attempt to score his first Rally Finland win in career this weekend.
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