The battle in Germany of Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier, Red Bull’s asphalt kings, soon turned into a war of words.
The weekend started with the news that Loeb had signed with Citroën for another two years, meaning that he would continue to be team-mates with Sébastien Ogier until 2013. “That’s good news for me,” insisted Ogier. “I’d rather win one title against him than three in his absence.”
But the fighting talk turned nasty when Citroën imposed team orders to ensure that Loeb would finish ahead of Ogier in Germany – until a puncture at the end of the second day put the seven-time World Champion behind his younger team-mate.
“Sometimes there is justice in the sport,” said Ogier. “People who have all the elements can judge: I won’t say anything more.”
Predictably, Loeb saw it differently: “I think he’s speaking a bit too much,” came the terse reply.
'The really exciting thing is that there is a lot more still to come' – Dani Sordo
While there may have been some upset among the Citroën drivers, the biggest upset at Ford was in Jari-Matti Latvala’s stomach. The young Finn may have won the first stage, but a series of punctures, problems and a topsy-turvy belly held him back for the rest of the event. “I haven’t got a clue what I ate,” said Latvala, in a questionable tribute to the Ford chef. “But my stomach was like a washing machine: luckily it calmed down a bit during the second day.”
One of the highlights of the rally was a strong performance for MINI, which set top-three stage times (on only its third ever rally) en route to third overall with Dani Sordo.
“I feel free now,” said Sordo, who for five years took a regular drubbing as Sébastien Loeb’s team-mate at Citroën. “I didn’t expect a podium already, but for me the really exciting thing is that there is a lot more still to come.”
'It was a sudden stop and now it hurts… between my legs' – Mads Ostberg
Germany was the first asphalt rally of the year – but not as we know it. The surfaces were abrasive and changeable, especially over the concrete roads of the Panzerplatte military ranges on day two, which according to one British journalist “took no prisoners”.
Proof of just how tough it was came via the 15 or so punctures picked up by the frontrunners – including Loeb. “There were some rocks and stuff in the middle of the road; they weren’t big but that must have been the cause,” he reflected. “It’s just bad luck I suppose.”
There was even worse luck for Ford privateer Mads Ostberg, who went off on the final day and injured himself in an unfortunate way. “It was a sudden stop and now it hurts… between my legs,” he grimaced.
The last word, of course, goes to the ‘Iceman’, Kimi Räikkönen – who put in a strong performance to finish sixth in his Citroën. However, he’s not sure now if he’s going to go to the next round in Australia. “It’s a long way from home,” he helpfully pointed out as one of the reasons why.
- Official World Rally Championship website wrc.com
- WRC Germany event page
- Classic WRC: Rallye Deutschland 2004