Loeb shuts out Rally NZ win
Sun, 24 Jun 2012 8:09p.m.
Defending world rally champion Sebastien Loeb has proven unstoppable on the final day of Rally New Zealand, easing to a comfortable win over Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen today.
It's the third time Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena have won the rally, the pair putting together a faultless display to stay out of trouble in the last seven stages around Auckland.
Loeb's clear run through the rally's closing 7.3km power stage earned the Frenchman his fifth win from seven starts this season, 29.6sec clear of Hirvonen.
Ford's Petter Solberg and co-driver Chris Patterson were third, 1min 36.4sec behind Loeb.
Loeb had led Hirvonen by just 6.4sec going into Sunday's closing stages, but with a big gap back to Solberg, the Citroen team opted for a no-risk approach and instructed their drivers to ease up in their battle for the win.
It was Citroen's third one-two result in a row, and extends Loeb's overall lead to 145 points, 38 ahead of second-placed Hirvonen.
Loeb was happy to have come through Sunday's rain-lashed, often challenging conditions intact.
"We tried to keep a good rhythm to keep a good concentration because it's not easy in these conditions," he said.
"It's been a long weekend and my driving has not been perfect. We made a few mistakes in the closing power stage when we were pushing too hard, but the most important thing is that we have won."
Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala finished the rally as he began it - with a win, bagging a maximum three points on the closing power stage to back up his victory in the penultimate 6.75km Ahuroa stage.
Solberg was second, 1.5sec behind with Loeb .2sec slower in third place.
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