2 OCTOBER 26 2011 motorsport-news.co.uk
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THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2793
“Dan was the only really unlucky one”
IndyCar hero Mario Andretti on the sport’s safety
VOLKSWAGEN CLOSING IN ON WRC WINNER
German marque is close to signing one of four stars
REMEMBERING HOW THE BTCC
TURBO WAR WAS WON
The best bits of the BTCC are in our four page review
LOEB WINS TO SET UP
Citroën’s record breaker makes history in Spain
Historic race and rally news
BTCC season review
Cheviot Keith Knox Rally report 31 SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 32 Sporting Scene round-up 33 Karting round-up 34 Henry Surtees trophy report 35 Letters/Comment/What’s On 36 Classified 38 Wanted:Two lamb bhunas and a pint of Kingfisher to get into the Indian Grand Prix spirit.Who cares if it’s eight am...
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Points race in the balance as the crews
ByDanMcCalla Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen will go head-to-head for the World Rally Championship title on Rally GB for the second time in three seasons next month.
Citroën ace Loeb’s victory on Rally Spain at the weekend has given him an eight-point lead in the title race over Ford star Hirvonen, who finished second after team orders for fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala to cede the position. With Ford traditionally strong on the Welsh gravel stages, the Spanish result sets up a tantalising finale to the most dramatic WRCseason in years.
Fr enchman Loe b has upper hand
Citroën still wary Citroën is taking nothing for granted as Loeb attempts to win his eighth successive WRCtitle, despite the fact that the 37-year-old will go into the finale leading the points and that he has wonRally GB for the last three years. Hirvonen has traditionally always run well on Rally GB, and Loeb admits that hewill have to be at his best to secure the crown.
“It’s difficult to say [that I will win] as everything is possible,” said the Frenchman. “The rally is long, so I know that to win the title I will have to beat Mikko, or if I’m second I would have to score points in the Power Stage, so there’s a long way to go.”
Loeb has been backed to win his eighth crown by his team chief Olivier Quesnel, and Loeb will be free to push for his drivers’ title after Citroën secured its seventh manufacturers title thanks to Loeb’s victory in Spain. While Citroën has been criticised for some of its team orders decisions this season, Quesnel believes they have played a major part in putting Loeb in pole position to win the WRCagain.
“Anything could have happened here in Spain so we are very pleased,” Quesnel told Motorsport News. “Seb won the rally, Citroën got the seventh
POINTS FIAWorld Rally Championship After 12 of 13 rounds
1 Sébastien Loeb 222pts 2 Mikko Hirvonen 214 3 Sébastien Ogier 193 4 Jari-Matti Latvala 146 5 Petter Solberg 110 6 Mads Østberg 70
manufacturers’ title, and Seb has eight points [advantage] for Great Britain. It won’t be easy, but when we came here it was the same, but I’m sure that Seb in Great Britain will be OK.
“It’s not just the manufacturers’ title –we have won ten rallies out of 12 so far. Of course it was not easy to make these [team orders] decisions, but I prefer to have these problems and win ten rallies than not have the problems and not win anything at all.”
Ford stays alive Hirvonen and his Ford team went into Rally Spain knowing that he would most likely lose his share of the points lead, and that the Saloubased event was destined to be an exercise in damage limitation. Despite initially struggling for pace on the Tarmac stages, Hirvonen got himself into third in the closing part of the event and took second when team-mate Latvala checked into the pre-Power Stage regroup early and took a two-minute penalty.
The 31-year-old says that compared to Spain, the raft of new stages on Rally GBand the unpredictable weather inWales in November could make the title decider a lottery and give him a fighting chance.
“It’s still alive, and Spain and France have been such difficult rallies for me, but the good thing is that on Sunday morning I started to understand what waswrong with
Loeb says he’ll push hard for the crown in Wales Classified advertising: 0208 267 5355
motorsport-news.co.uk OCTOBER 26 2011 3
head for a GB showdown
WRC FIGHTERS READY FOR
mydriving and get quicker,” said Hirvonen. “I have to thank JariMatti for his help in the title fight. It could be a very exciting rally and with the GBconditions like fog and mud, anything could happen. I always like the final to be in GBso we’re definitely ready for it.”
Team chief Malcolm Wilson believes Hirvonen has to go all-out to win Rally GB to win the title, and is hoping for a one-two finish with Latvala in second inWales. If such a result was to occur, the only way that Loeb could win the title would be with third overall and a Power Stage victory, as well as Hirvonen failing to score on the bonus-point test on the Epynt ranges.
“We always knew it was going to be difficult to beat Sébastien in Spain, no question,” said Wilson at the finish in Salou. “Jari-Matti proved that it is possible to do that, but the important thing is that we leave here with everything to fight for on Rally GB. It’s down to Mikko now and we know he can go really well there, so now he’s got to go and win the rally. Aone-two would make it a lot easier and would secure the title for Mikko [depending on the Power Stage result] so that would be a perfect result.”
D-day for Blue Oval Hirvonen’s push for the title has come among ongoing uncertainty around Ford’s factory WRCeffort. The Blue Oval’s board still has not committed beyond the end of this season, and its European motorsport chief Gerard Quinn admitted to Motorsport News at the weekend that the decision won’t be made public until after Rally GB.
This is despite the fact that the 2012 season will get underway in Monte Carlo just 66 days after the current campaign concludes in Cardiff onNovember 13. Quinn said that while there are many factors being considered, a title victory for Hirvonen –which would be Ford’s first drivers’ crown since Ari Vatanen’s success in 1981 – could help convince the company’s chiefs to commit to world rallying.
“The deal is awork in progress, but I think there’s been a change now because our concentration is to get Mikko to cross the line first in the drivers’ championship,” said Quinn.
“That’s our priority right now, and wewill make an announcement when the time is right after that. We’ll wait and see how the championship pans out.
“It will make some difference and I don’t want to detract from the significance of Mikko winning the drivers’ championship. This is a big thing for us because Ford hasn’t won a drivers’ championship since 1981. But what I do want us to do is to concentrate our effort on getting behind him.” Fo rd ace Hir vo nen is a fa n of the stag es on Rall y GB
Ford star Hirvonen is hoping to dominate UK’s WRC event
Loeb sets a new stage win benchmark
Citroën team chief Olivier Quesnel has backed Sébastien Loeb to reach 1000 WRCstage victories after the world champion broke the all-time stage win record on Rally Spain.
Alén. Markku Finn by set 801
Loeb’s win on the eighth stage, the Riba-Roja d’Ebre test on Saturday morning, was his 802nd in world rallying. That moved him past the previous record of 801 set by Finn Markku Alén. Quesnel believes that Loeb’s achievement could be considered greater because there are fewer stages on WRCrallies today compared to Alén’s era, and fully believes Loeb can reach four figures before the 37-yearold decides to retire. “It’s enormous, but we didn’t know it was coming up,” Quesnel told MN. “Wewere surprised the first was Markku Alén, but there were a lot of stages on rallies back then. Loeb is still rallying for maybe twomore years, and maybe we go to 1000 stages. But the statistics with Loeb are amazing. It never stops.”
STAGE WINS WRC Fastest times by driver
1 Sébastien Loeb 803 2 Markku Alén 801 3 Carlos Sainz 756 4 Juha Kankkunen 700 5 Hannu Mikkola 654 6 Didier Auriol 554 7 Marcus Grönholm542 = Ari Vatanen 542 9 Stig Blomqvist 486 10 Colin McRae 477
477 McRae Colin 10
Alén held the record
Loeb, who took his tally to 803 with a futher win in Spain, was delighted to add the record alongside his tallies for titles, wins, podiums and points: “It was the last record I didn’t have, so it’s good news,” he said.
WHY OGIER IS THE KEY TO WRC DRIVER MARKET, PAGE 14