August 29, 2005 Citroen notched up its first one-two of the season yesterday with Sebastien Loeb claiming his eighth victory of the season and extending his lead at the head of the Drivers’ Championship to 32 points with five events remaining. It is also the Frenchman’s fourth consecutive win in Germany. Team-mate Francois Duval repaid the team’s faith by claiming second, 37.4 seconds adrift of the reigning World Champion. Marcus Grönholm, winner of his home event in Finland, finished on the podium in third to retain second in the series.
In the very same event that gave them their maiden victory at world level, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena took their record to a total of 18 WRC wins by securing their fourth consecutive win in the ancient German city of Trier. Today's result extends Seb and Daniel's advantage at the top of the Drivers' championship to 32 points over Marcus Grönholm, their closest rival.
"Everyone knows that I consider the Deutschland Rally to be my home event," said Seb to the backdrop of the incredible hubbub of final service. "This is the rally my childhood friends come to watch and I really wanted to win it again; it's great to have succeeded. Like François, we pushed hard on Day 1, and then it was a case of controlling from in front. That's less fun, but that was amply outweighed by the pleasure we derived from scoring such a superb result for the team. It's looking promising for the rest of the season…"
Running in the wake of the reigning World Champions – and at the same pace – from Day 1, François Duval and Sven Smeets went on to make it a resounding one-two finish for Citroën which is likely to come in useful in the battle for the Manufacturers' title and which puts Citroën back in front in the provisional standings. "It's been a tremendous weekend for us and for Citroën," beamed François after saluting his fans who were just as numerous and enthusiastic as those of his team-mate. "Sven and I had the potential to win but the way the event unfolded meant that we had to make sure of finishing first and second. It was a little stressful because we couldn't afford to make any mistakes. To have shown that I am capable of matching Seb's speed is very important for me, for my confidence and for my future…"
Guy Fréquelin was naturally delighted but didn't conceal that he was a little anxious until the flag came down: "When you pull out such a lead so early on, everybody thinks it's easy and you're obliged in a way to score a top result. You have to go all the way, otherwise you give the impression you've missed out on something. The incidents that affected us at the beginning of Leg 2 provided a reminder that anything can happen in rallying. But in the end, we finished without making any mistakes and secured the best possible result. I have to congratulate the whole team: Seb and Daniel of course, but also François and Sven who put in an excellent performance and accepted to settle for this result. The fact that François has got his confidence back is very important. We will need it."
Marcus Gronholm, Peugeot Total Rally Team, third place: "I have to be pleased with third, as it was the best we could achieve here. Nobody could compete with the Citroens: they were in a class of their own here. Looking on the positive side, the car was totally reliable and we were faster than anybody else. Now I'm looking forward to getting back onto gravel. I think we have a better chance of winning there!"
Markko Martin, Peugeot Total Rally Team, fourth place: "This was quite a straightforward rally for me. I lost time on the first day when a tyre came off the rim, but by the end of it I was back to fourth again and from then on it was just a question of holding that position. I had a bit of excitement today when the Ford of Daniel Sola held me up in the morning and I had to overtake him, but apart from that we had no dramas. It was a good, solid performance from ourselves and the team."
Jean Pierre Nicolas, Peugeot Total Rally Team: “Our objective was achieved on these very dry roads. We knew that it would be difficult to fight on equal terms with Citroen, so the most sensible course of action was to concentrate on securing third and fourth places. Our drivers had no mechanical problems throughout the rally. We are now six points behind the championship, but Marcus and Markko will approach the next round of the championship, Rally Great Britain, with a mindset that will allow them to fight for the win. “
Gigi Galli, Mitsubishi, fifth: “A very interesting day….!” said Galli at the finish. “I can’t really believe it because our goal was to do well but not push hard and go off the road. Everyone in the team worked really well and at lunchtime I felt great support and that gave me real confidence this afternoon. Today, we made no mistakes at all and that makes a difference. It was a very tricky rally and we have made another step forward with the team and also our career. I am really surprised to have done that on this rally!”
Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports: “This result is almost the same as my best-case scenario, which was to finish and get manufacturer points with both cars. For Gigi to finish fifth is very good and although Harri was just outside the points, we take great confidence from the fact that the cars had no technical problems over the three days. Gigi’s fight today was exciting and to then record a fastest time was fantastic; he has now regained his confidence. Everyone in the team did a great job and it is a teamwork result. Now it is maximum attack for Rally GB and Japan!”
Roger Estrada, Mitsubishi Principal Rally Engineer: “I’m very pleased because today we showed the car’s performance can be very good. We had no technical problems throughout the event on either car and we have reason to have confidence for the future.”
Roman Kresta, BP-Ford , sixth: "I could have driven faster but that would have meant taking risks, and I didn't want to do that. It's better to finish sixth than not at all. I really wanted the points and this is a good result for me and the BP-Ford team. The battle with Gigi was good for the spectators to watch but not so easy for me!
"I held fourth on the first day and I think that if I had not made any mistakes I could have finished there. The Focus has been perfect for all three days and the only things that have gone wrong were my fault. I had a good test before the rally and that helped me a lot."
Petter Solberg, Subaru World Rally Team, seventh: “Today Stéphane and I agreed not to fight for this position, as he had deserved this place. It was very unfortunate that his driveshaft problem then cost him the place giving me the extra point. On the whole, today was better for me as the stages were narrow and twistier and suited the car and me. We kept pushing, always trying a few things and kept learning more. We now have lots of work to do before Rally GB, as we want to be able to push for a fourth win there!
David Lapworth, Subaru World Rally Team Principal: “It has been a long, difficult weekend with more lows than highs. After Saturday's gear selection problem, Petter missed out on a fight closer to the podium, however he has made good progress back up the leaderboard, showing great character, and can take some consolation with a fastest stage time late today. We are very encouraged with the pace of both Stephane and Chris. Both have shown good speed given their relative inexperience at this level. For Chris this was his first three days of tarmac rallying and the way he has quickened throughout the rally bodes well for the future. Stephane has been able to trade stage times with the Peugeots and Citroens and we are confident that with this experience we can deliver a good result on the remaining two tarmac events this year. From here we now go to Rally GB which is an event where the Subaru-Pirelli package has historically been dominant. Our motivation is very high to maintain that run of success on the team's home event.
Stéphane Sarrazin, Subaru World Rally Team, eighth: “I am very happy with my pace all weekend, although the result itself was not so great. Today it was a big shame to lose the driveshaft and with it another position. I now know that I can fight with the top guys and being in the same car as Petter am pleased that I have swapped and sometimes bettered his times. When I push I know I can be very fast. I am pleased with the car and it is so easy to drive which gives me the extra confidence to push and drive fast. I'm now looking forward to Corsica and Spain when we should be able to get a good result.
Harri Rovanperä, Mitsubishi, 10th:“All the stages in this rally have effectively been new to me and I have only been listening to the notes and trying to stay on the road; I have no preview memories of this event. I am happy our car ran without problems and we reached the finish. We’ve stalled a couple of times today due to a problem with the handbrake and that’s why we lost position, but okay, we have learned a lot and the next two asphalt rallies will be better I think.”
Chris Atkinson, Subaru World Rally Team, 11th: “This has been one of my better rallies of the year, despite never having driven a tarmac rally before. I have been improving steadily all weekend and that is encouraging. I started the weekend nearly three seconds a kilometre behind the top drivers but by today that gap has been as little as 0.4 seconds a kilometre. I'm definitely happy with my progress and have met or exceeded all the targets we agreed before the weekend. There's a lot we can take away from here that will stand us in good stead for the tarmac rallies later in the year.
Toni Gardemeister, BP-Ford, 17th: "It was a disappointing weekend for me. It was difficult to fight for good times and then the problem cost me a lot more time. I have tested tyre and suspension set-up so the data we have gathered from that has been useful. I'm pleased I made it to the finish, but I wanted a good result here and that didn't happen."
The next event: Round 12 of the 16 event 2005 FIA World Rally Championship starts in three weeks time, when crews move to the UK. Based in Cardiff, the Welsh capital, the gravel event has become famous for its muddy, gravel stages run through the forests of south Wales. The rally gets underway on Friday morning in west Wales and goes through to finish in the shadow of Margam Castle in the south. New for 2005 are the Superspecials in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday and Sunday. Crews will contest 17 stages over the three days.
Final classification :
1. Loeb Citroën 3h27'13''2 2. Duval Citroën at 37''4 3. Grönholm Peugeot at 2'04''8 4. Märtin Peugeot at 4'09''4 5. Galli Mitsubishi at 5'03''6 6. Kresta Ford at 5'12''3 7. Solberg Subaru at 7'48''1 8. Sarrazin Subaru at 8'34''1
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers
1. Loeb 93pts 2. Grönholm 61pts 3. Solberg 55pts 4. Märtin 53pts 5. Gardemeister 47pts 6. Rovanperä 22pts 7. Duval 16pts 8. Kresta 13pts 9. Stohl 12 pts 10. Sainz 11 pts 11. Galli 10 pts
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
1. Citroën 123pts 2. Peugeot 117pts 3. Ford 72pts 4. Subaru 62pts 5. Mitsubishi 47pts 6. Skoda 8pts