Saturday morning at the Rally Portugal, there was excitement in the air as the top of the leader board displayed a name that wasn’t Sebastien Loeb.
The Citroen driver had won every World Rally Championship event this year, but that feeling wouldn’t last as Loeb rose from third place to finish the day on top.
Sunday, Loeb showed why he is the five-time WRC champion as he pulled away from the field and added to his record victory total which now stands at 51.
Mikko Hirvonen tried his best to challenge his Citroen rival, but conceded defeat early in the morning when the gap between them became insurmountable. The BP Ford team decided to play it safe and settle for second place points.
"It was incredibly dusty this morning," said Hirvonen. "I started the day thinking a win was possible, but the dust hung in the cool air and I realized after the opening stage that in those conditions I had no chance of catching Loeb.
"I hoped to win here but it wasn't meant to be. I think second place was the maximum I could achieve. Eight points is good for me because many drivers scored zero.
"It's frustrating to see Loeb on top again, but I'm not giving up on the championship title just yet—we are only a third of the way through the season. I go to every event hoping to win and without him I would do that!
"The car was excellent here and I really enjoyed the rally, although it was tough yesterday when I had to clean the road at the front," he added.
Loeb’s teammate, Dani Sordo's super claimed a strong third place, which moved him into fourth in the points standings and added to Citroen’s lead in the all important Manufacturer’s Championship
Privateer Petter Solberg Team again outperformed better funded, factory drivers to finish in fourth. This marks the third time that Solberg has finished in a top six position out of four rallies.
Matthew Wilson looked like he was once again set for a points paying finish, but crashed off course and was forced to retire on the final gravel stage. This opened the door for his Stobart Ford teammate Henning Solberg to claim fifth spot.
One interesting result that came out of the Rally Portugal was that for the first time three Norwegians finished in the top six of the WRC event.
This was due to Mads Ostberg's fine, sixth-place result in his privateer Subaru. The other two Norwegians in the top six being the Brothers Solberg (Petter and Henning).
The next round of this year's championship will take place in Argentina, starting April 24.
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h53m13.1s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 24.3s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m45.4s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 2m44.6s
5. Henning Solberg Ford + 5m46.3s
6. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 6m20.8s
7. Federico Villagra Ford + 12m59.5s
8. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 18m21.7s
Photo and quotes Courtesy of: WRC, BP Ford Rally Team