October 2, 2005 Frenchman Sebastien Loeb and his Citroen Xsara took the FIA World Rally Championship today, finishing second to a resurgent Marcus Gronholm’s Peugeot 307 and extending his points lead to 36 points with three events still to run in the championship series. After leading the rally for all but two stages, Subaru’s Petter Solberg was robbed of victory in the penultimate stage when he hit a rock and broke the Subaru’s steering. Victory therefore landed in the lap of Marcus Gronholm, his second win of the season. Loeb only needed to finish third, regardless of rivals’ positions around him, and drove the rally required to secure his second title. Subaru’s Chris Atkinson drove to third, his best-ever result, while Francois Duval claimed fourth ahead of Mitsubishi driver Harri Rovanpera. Ford maintained its record of scoring on each round; Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta finishing sixth and seventh respectively to claim Ford’s 57th consecutive points-scoring finish. Daniel Carlsson, stepping in for Markko Märtin, rounded off the top eight.
On the menu of the third and final leg were two runs through Panke Nikorpet and Penke, both "narrow, twisty and very difficult stages," in Sébastien Loeb's own words, "perhaps the most technically demanding of the rally." They were also damp and slippery following the previous day's rain, but Seb took it cautiously over both and came out of this final hurdle unscathed. In the chasing pack of four drivers that was grouped within less than 13 seconds this morning, François posted a 3rd and a 2nd fastest time to conclude the event with an ideal balance of speed and caution. There was naturally something of a party atmosphere at final service where Citroën's two crews performed the traditional kagami-wari ritual by joyfully smashing open a vat of sake with a mallet before answering the questions of the many journalists in attendance. "Fantastic," kept repeating the beaming Seb. "We have reached the first peak of what has practically been a perfect season by sewing up our second Drivers' title with three rounds still to come. Each time out, Citroën has given us a competitive and reliable car. This triumph is also theirs and we now intend to do all we can to make sure the team keeps the Manufacturers' title. They really deserve it. I only needed to finish 3rd here, and I came home in 2nd place but that doesn't change much. In the circumstances I am happy for Marcus, Timo and Peugeot." Now back to his usual self, François Duval was as pleased at the finish as his team-mate. "It's nice to be fully confident again. That was important in this weekend's very difficult and slippery conditions. Sven and I spent a lot of time before this rally thinking about Markko [Martin] and Michael [Park] and it took us a little time to get into full swing here. I am very happy for Seb and Daniel. They fully deserve their second world title. They have shown that they are capable of winning on all types of surface and how important hard work is. They will now have a free mind and we are feeling confident, so the end of the season looks very promising…"
Rally Japan – Final Positions
1. Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen Peugeot 307 WRC 3 hr 25 min 32.0sec 2. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroën Xsara WRC 3 hr 26 min 54.1sec 3. Chris Atkinson/Glenn Macneall Subaru Impreza WRC 2005 3 hr 28 min 12.0sec 4. François Duval/Sven Smeets Citroën Xsara WRC 3 hr 28 min 31.4sec 5. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 3 hr 29 min 31.8sec 6. Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen Ford Focus RS WRC04 3 hr 30 min 04.3sec 7. Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek Ford Focus RS WRC04 3 hr 31 min 04.0sec 8. Daniel Carlsson/Mattias Andersson Peugeot 307 WRC 3 hr 32 min 11.1sec 9. Antony Warmbold/Michael Orr Ford Focus RS WRC04 3 hr 33 min 11.3sec 10. Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha _koda Fabia WRC 3 hr 37 min 39.4sec
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers
Sébastien Loeb 107 Marcus Grönholm 71 Petter Solberg 65 Markko Märtin 53 Toni Gardemeister 50 Harri Rovanperä 31 François Duval 29 Roman Kresta 18 Manfred Stohl 16 Carlos Sainz 11 Gigi Galli 10 Henning Solberg 9 Chris Atkinson 8 Mikko Hirvonen 8 Gilles Panizzi 7
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
Citroën 150 Peugeot 128 Ford 81 Subaru 78 Mitsubishi 58 Skoda 12
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