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Loeb Takes Over The World Championship Lead With Argentinean Win

March 31st, 2008

Citroen’s Sébastien Loeb has regained the lead in the 2008 World Rally Championship Drivers’ title chase after a dominant win – his fourth consecutive Argentinean win – in the South American round of the 2008 World Rally Championship at the weekend (28-30 March 2008) and thanks to a third place for team mate Dani Sordo, Citroën is now within three points of the manufacturers’ title chase.

Ford arrived in Argentina in dominant form, leading both title chases and with cars that were tipped to win. However both Ford drivers crashed out of the event on the first day, falling foul of weather conditions that, thanks to a date shift of more than a month, reminded Loeb more of mid-winter Wales than the sunny South America in which in has won for the last three years. It was then left to the Subarus to take the challenge Citroën, with Australian Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg keeping Dani Sordo of the podium.

The final leg of the event was once again marked by wet weather, with fog also making an appearance high in the mountains of the 'Giulio Cesare' and 'El Condor' tests. These were the only true stages of the day before one last visit to the super-special in Córdoba and the finish ceremony in Villa Carlos Paz. One of the challenges faced by Citroen over the three days was running on Pirelli tyres which, in keeping with the regulations, turned out to be too hard for the wet conditions. But it was neither weather nor tyres that enabled Dandi Sordo to join Loeb on the podium – on special stage 19 Solberg’s Subaru ground to halt, with the rain and water splashes defeating its electrical systems, leaving just Chris Atkinson offering and threat to Loeb’s 39th WRC win.

Not that Loeb saw his Argentinean win as a walk in the park.

"Believe me, it wasn't easy," admitted Seb. "Given the delicate conditions, we had to stay doubly concentrated from start to finish. We also benefited from a faultless performance from our Citroën C4 which was once again competitive and reliable. Before coming here, we had been hoping that Rally Argentina would enable us to take the lead in the Drivers championship and score points for Citroën, and that's what we've done!"

The result is Citroën's fifth straight success in Argentina, while Sébastien has become the most successful driver ever on the South American fixture with a score of four consecutive wins to his name.

The event was also a notable success for Sordo and essential to keep Citroën on track to win the manufactures’’ title.

"It would have been so easy to get caught out," remarked Dani Sordo before the podium ceremony. "It really has been a difficult event: a single bend could have compromised all the good work put in by everyone in the team and the chance for Citroën to close the gap in the championship. I am pleased to have finished third and my times were on a par with what I was hoping for."

With two cars on the podium, Sébastien Loeb now on top of the Drivers' championship and Citroën closer to the lead in the Manufacturers' standings, Olivier Quesnel was also understandably delighted with the way the weekend turned out.

"It's an excellent result for us. When you see how the event unfolded, it clearly wasn't an easy rally, yet both our crews figured amongst the few who didn't put a foot wrong. Apart from the steering rack problem which slowed Dani on Friday, we didn't have any mechanical trouble either. The combination of two such sure-footed drivers and the reliability of the C4 has enabled us to go top in the Drivers' standings and also make up much of our deficit in the Manufacturers' points table. It's now up to us to keep up the hard work in order to leave nothing to chance with a view to repeating the same sort of performance in Jordan, which is the next round. I would also like to congratulate Conrad Rautenbach and David Senior whose fine run took them to fourth overall with their Citroën C4 WRC run by PH Sport with support from Citroën Sport Technologies technicians. Conrad scored his first WRC points in an event that was far from straightforward given the conditions."

Rally statistics

Stage wins

Day 1: SS1 and SS2: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus) – SS3: Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Focus) – SS4: M. Hirvonen – SS5: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C4) – SS6: JM. Latvala – SS7: Gigi Galli (Ford Focus) – SS8: JM. Latvala – SS9: Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza).

Day 2: SS10: Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza) – SS11 and SS12: S. Loeb – SS13: C. Atkinson – SS14: P. Solberg – SS15: S. Loeb – SS16, SS17 and SS18: P. Solberg.

Day 3: SS19: JM. Latvala – SS20: S. Loeb – SS21: JM. Latvala.

Best performers: S. Loeb, 5 stages wins – P. Solberg, 5 – JM. Latvala, 5 – M. Hirvonen, 3 – C. Atkinson, 2 – G. Galli, 1.

Leaders: SS1 to SS4: M. Hirvonen – SS5 to SS21: S. Loeb.

Final leaderboard on 28th Rally Argentina*

1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën C4) 5 h 05 min 48,6 s

2. C. Atkinson/S. Prevot (Subaru Impreza) + 2 min 33,2 s

3. D. Sordo/M. Martí (Citroën C4) + 4 min 04,7 s

4. C. Rautenbach/D. Senior (Citroën C4) + 20 min 03,5 s

5. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus) + 25 min 15,3 s

6. F. Villagra/J. Pérez-Companc (Ford Focus) + 27 min 42 s

7. G. Galli/G. Bernacchini (Ford Focus) + 27 min 51,8 s

8. A. Aigner/K. Wicha (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 28 min 59,3 s

9. S. Beltrán/R. Rojas (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 30 min 04,9 s

10. J. Ketomaa/M. Teiskonen (Subaru Impreza) + 31 min 52,6 s

FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Manufacturers’ (round 4/15)*

1. Ford, 44 points – 2. Citroën-Total, 41 pts – 3. Subaru, 33 pts – 4. Stobart, 22 pts – 5. Munchi's, 10 pts – 6. Suzuki, 6 pts.

FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Drivers’ (round 4/15)*

1. S. Loeb, 30 points – 2. M. Hirvonen, 25 points – 3. C. Atkinson, 22 pts – 4. JM Latvala, 16 pts – 5. G. Galli, 11 pts – 6. D. Sordo, 9 pts – 7. P. Solberg, 9 pts – 8. C. Rautenbach, 5 pts – 9. F. Villagra, 5 pts – 10. F. Duval, 5 pts – 11. A. Mikkelsen, 4 pts – 12. H. Solberg, 4 pts – 13. M. Wilson, 3 pts – 14. JM. Cuoq, 2 pts – 15. T. Gardemeister, 2 pts – 16. A. Aigner, 1 pts – 17. PG. Andersson, 1 pt

– 18. J. Hänninen, 1 pt – 19. S. Ogier, 1 pt.

*Subject to final publications of the results by the FIA.

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