The Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb clinched a record fifth World Rally Championship after finishing third in the Japan Rally today, despite suffering a late spin.
Loeb wins record fifth title
SAPPORO, JAPAN // Sebastien Loeb for Citroen clinched a record fifth World Rally Championship title after finishing third in the Japan Rally today, despite suffering a late spin. Rival Mikko Hirvonen led Jari-Matti Latvala in a BP Ford Abu Dhabi one-two, but it was not enough to keep the title race alive and prevent Loeb winning his fifth successive world crown. "It's incredible," an ecstatic Loeb said after the race. "But that was a terrible rally ? it couldn't have been more tricky. There was a lot of pressure but now it's a great moment. It's perfect.
"I'm so relieved this weekend is over now. Last year (co-driver) Daniel (Elena) and I equalled the record with four wins, so being the only ones with five is nice." A heart-stopping spin on the penultimate stage almost cost the Frenchman third place and his hopes of glory in Sapporo as torrential rain made conditions treacherous. "I spun a few hundred metres before the finish," said Loeb. "I was doing about 50kph in a straight line and then 'Bang!' ? it just went.
"We had to reverse and get going again. I lost the electronic differential control because of the water everywhere." However, Loeb recovered to finish more than a minute clear of the Subaru driver Chris Atkinson in fourth. Hirvonen won by a margin of 31.1 seconds from fellow Finn Latvala but afterwards paid tribute to Loeb for another dominant season. "He definitely deserved it," said Hirvonen. "Everybody can see he won 10 rallies this year. I did all I could. I will just have to try again next year."
Loeb had wanted to secure the title in Japan in order to drive flat-out in the last race in Britain later this month in a bid to break his own record of 10 wins in a season. Loeb, 34, dubbed the "Michael Schumacher of rallying" for his stranglehold over the sport, has won a record 46 races in a career that began in 1999. *Reuters