Sebastien Loeb made it nine wins from 10 starts on Germany’s round of the World Rally Championship but even the eight-time WRC title winner said his dominant victory by two minutes hadn’t been easy.
“It was a hard rally, the weather conditions were extremely difficult, which meant I had some very difficult tyre choices to make,” said the 38-year-old with reference to the rain that plagued the three-day event in Trier.
Just to underline his dominance, the French legend, in his Red Bull-backed Citroen DS3, won the event-closing Power Stage around the historic Porta Nigra UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south-west German city to bag three bonus points in his quest for a ninth world crown.
“We had a good drive, a perfect car and I made no mistake,” Loeb continued. “Winning the Power Stage also meant this was a perfect weekend. I also had a lot of support from the fans.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was the leading Ford finisher in second – his best result in the WRC on a Tarmac rally – to make amends for team-mate Petter Solberg’s crash on Saturday morning, which put the ex-world champion out of a seemingly certain runner-up spot.
“It feels great to finish on the podium and I’ll take great confidence from my best result on this surface,” said the Finn. “This rally hasn’t been kind to Ford over the years so it’s a boost for everyone in the team. It was a hard event but we showed that the pace of myself and the car on asphalt continues to improve.”
Solberg languished outside of the top 10 after restarting on day three following his off on Saturday morning: “The car snapped away and once I hit the rock it was all over. Until then my rally went extremely well. The testing and hard work that we put in improved the car and I was delighted with the pace.”
Mikko Hirvonen benefited from Solberg’s woes – and problems for Citroen Junior Thierry Neuville, who was fourth when he crashed on the same stage on Saturday, the menacing Arena Panzerplatte test – to claim the final podium spot for Citroen.
Norwegian privateer Mads Ostberg took fourth with Chris Atkinson sixth on his first rally in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
“It’s awesome and big thanks to the team for a fantastic job,” said the Aussie. “We’ve got through some tricky conditions but our strategy to keep out of trouble has paid off. We’ll start fighting to go a bit higher in the results on our next event.”
Last year’s event winner Sebastien Ogier, in his Wings for Life-branded Skoda Fabia Super 2000, run by the Volkswagen Motorsport team finished sixth.
Red Bull-backed Nasser Al-Attiyah finished eighth on his return to the WRC for the first time since winning a bronze medal in the men’s skeet shooting section of the London 2012 Olympics.
Wheels come off for Gassner
Young German driver Herman Gassner Jr made a popular return to the WRC at the wheel of a Skoda, competing against his father, who was rallying in a production-based Mitsubishi Lancer.
Gassner Jr came to Rallye Deutschland to gain valuable experience and after a promising start he was unlucky to pick up a 50 second time penalty, and then had a big crash on the famous "SS Panzerplatte 1" tearing off part of the rear-left suspension on the rally's longest stage.
He limped back to the service park on three wheels, but it effectively spelt the end of his challenge. – and had to "carry" his Skoda to the finish on three wheels. The rally was therefore all but over.
"I hit a hard object sideward with the tyre and unfortunately tore off part of the suspension. I still could've made it out of the stage, but I wouldn't have managed the 100km back to service on three wheels... a real shame."
Dani Sordo didn't fair much better; picking up a puncture at Panzerplatte on Saturdayand then crashing the Prodrive-prepared MINI John Cooper Works WRC out of day two on the second run through the event’s longest test. In the end, Sordo picked up a creditable ninth.
Meanwhile Poland's Michal Kosciuszko took the lead of the PWRC from Mitsubishi team-mate Benito Guerra after the Mexican was delayed by a puncture in the 26.54km Stein & Wein test.