Sebastien Loeb won the WRC Rally of Spain for the seventh time and also clinched the FIA manufacturers’ title for Citroen for a seventh time. Here's what the drivers had to say.
“It was really important for me to get to the end of this rally with no problems. Otherwise, it could have been really difficult for the championship.” Red Bull’s Sebastien Loeb proved that he is as proficient at understatement as he is at driving rally cars before the Rally of Spain.
He started the event tied on points with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen – but on a couple of occasions Hirvonen has needed a helping hand from his team mate to maximise his points score, such as on the last rally in France.
'When I need to fight, I will fight' – Mikko Hirvonen
“Everybody has been wondering if I have the speed after France but I know that I have,” said Hirvonen. “When I need to fight, I will fight.”
But that was easier said than done, because of the dense layer of dust hanging over the stages. “It was the thickest dust I have ever seen in my life; you couldn’t see for two centimetres,” said former champion Petter Solberg, who hit a drainage culvert and retired on the opening stage.
The dust became even worse during the long night stage on Friday. The drivers had to take it easy, but as privateer Mads Ostberg said: “It’s hard to be sensible when you’re stupid enough to do this stage in the first place.”
Loeb continued to extend his lead during day two, but Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala pushed him hard and won three stages, on what he described as “the best day on asphalt in my life”.
“Forget the best day on asphalt: it’s one of the best days of his career full stop,” said Ford’s motorsport boss Gerard Quinn.
It was a pretty good day for Latvala’s co-driver Mikka Anttila too, whose wife was busy giving birth to their second daughter. “That was a bit distracting: on the other hand I was quite busy,” said Antilla.
'It's just shit now' – Sebastien Ogier
By contrast, it was a terrible day for the second Red Bull Citroen of Sebastien Ogier, who picked up a puncture that dropped him out of the title battle. “It’s just shit now,” said a frustrated Frenchman, summing up the situation neatly.
Former grand prix world champion Kimi Raikkonen had already left the building thanks to a fuel leak and small fire, which meant that his weekend’s work was over by Friday lunchtime.
“Well, at least it went better than last year…” was his stoical comment. In 2010, the Iceman totalled his car in the shakedown, so it was definitely an improvement of sorts.
Now though, everyone’s concentrating on the championship showdown between Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen in sunny Wales. “Wales is the land of my fathers,” pointed out poet Dylan Thomas. “And my fathers can have it.”
The more contemporary wisdom of Sebastien Loeb suggests: “If Mikko wins I have to be second with some good points from the Power Stage. It’s a very open situation and it’s not easy so we will have to fight hard in Wales.”
It’s almost poetry.
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