x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Loeb exits with bang and whimper

While Sebastien Ogier celebrated his World Rally Championship drivers' title in style, outgoing champion Sebastien Loeb spun out and ended up in a ditch in the last race of his career.

Nine-time World Rally Championship winner Sebastien Loeb of France finished his final race in ignominious style, spinning out and crashing on the last day of Rally France.  EPA Photo
Nine-time World Rally Championship winner Sebastien Loeb of France finished his final race in ignominious style, spinning out and crashing on the last day of Rally France. EPA Photo

Sebastien Ogier celebrated winning the World Rally Championship drivers’ title in style as he won Rally France on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sebastien Loeb, the man he replaced as champion, endured an ignominious exit from the sport.

Ogier, who had clinched the title on Thursday on the opening power stage, showed why he will have the No 1 on his Volkswagen car next season as he came back from third place overnight to triumph by 12.2 seconds over Abu Dhabi Citroen’s Dani Sordo.

“There has been so much emotion this weekend,” Ogier said of taking the title and his seventh win of the season.

“We pushed to the maximum, then and this morning, we soon made a gap at the front. Then we had to bring the car home, which was not easy in the rain and mud.”

Ogier was trailing in third place going into the yesterday’s final leg of six stages, but posting the fastest times during the opening two stages saw the 29-year-old Frenchman move ahead of his Finnish teammate Jari-Matti Latvala and Sordo to take the lead in the race.

The real drama came on the first stage of the day as Loeb, the most successful driver in the sport’s history, flipped his car in his final race.

The Frenchman, who had claimed the previous nine world titles, winning 78 times in the process, spun as he looked to fight for victory in his Abu Dhabi Citroen, having started the day five seconds off the lead.

Loeb told Autosport of the incident: “I started flat out. In our situation, we were fighting for the victory and it didn’t go as I planed.

“I lost the rear, we had a spin and we ended in a ditch. For sure, I would have preferred to finish on the podium on this rally.”

Sordo and Latvala completed the podium behind Ogier, with the two M-Sports of Thierry Neuville and Evgeny Novikov finishing fourth and fifth, ahead of the second Abu Dhabi Citroen car of Mikko Hirvonen.

Rashid Al Ketbi achieved his best result of the season in the World Rally Championship (WRC) as he finished third in the WRC2 category.

The Emirati, who drives for the Skydive Dubai team, finished 16th overall in his Ford Fiesta.

“I promised myself that I would take a podium finish here and I am delighted to have achieved that,” he said. “The car and the team were fantastic.”

sports@thenational.ae