Loeb crowned Finnish Grand Prix champion!

For a non-Scandinavian to prove dominant in recent years on a rally traditionally only topped by Scandinavian rally aces, and doing so on stages more akin to sprints than endurance that puts even more pressure on driving skill and speed, for Citroën Total World Rally Team’s Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena to claim their third win at the Neste Oil Rally Finland is an accomplishment that will long be spoken about.

The World Rally Championship’s (WRC) eighth round of the 13-event series concluded today in Jyvaskyla with Loeb recording his 73rd WRC career victory. He was chased to the finish line by a persistent Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, their team-mates, who finished just 06.1 seconds adrift. Hirvonen piled on the pressure on Friday’s stages and attempted to reel in his eight-time world champion team-mate, but Loeb managed to keep a steady cushion between the two crews throughout the event.

As a wrap to this event regarded as the “Finnish Grand Prix,” the famous Ouninpohja stage that was included for 2013’s itinerary after an absence of some years, was run twice and back-to-back as the penultimate and then final stage of the event. The final run was the Power Stage over the 33.01km.

Winner here after a battle with Hirvonen, Loeb said: “For sure it’s very satisfying to win in Finland. I didn’t come here especially to win, I came for points because it’s very difficult to beat the Finnish drivers. It was a great fight with Mikko, a one-two for Citroën and great for the Championship.”

Hirvonen commented: “Sebastien was just faster and congratulations to him. Second position in Finland makes it even worse, but if you do a perfect rally it is not enough against Sebastien. You have to do more because he is incredible.”

Jari-Matti Latvala claimed third overall for the Ford World Rally Team, with team-mate Petter Solberg in fourth in their identical Ford Fiesta RS WRC machines. Championship website www.wrc.com stated that while the Blue Oval factory team was tipped for victory here, they were frustrated at finding their cars “didn’t have the speed to beat their Citroën rivals on this occasion.” For fans of the Ford marque, and with two Scandinavian drivers on their payroll, this team stood the best chance at victory on these stages. In this Championship, more than that is needed to top the final classification…

“Mad” Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford Fiesta RS WRC) suffered a mechanical failure on today’s Leustu 2 stage, but powered back up to fifth ahead of Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford World Rally Team). Matti Rantanen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) picked up seventh overall, Jari Ketomaa (DMACK Ford Fiesta RS WRC) eighth, Martin Prokop (Czech National Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC) ninth and Sebastien Ogier was the fastest S2000 crew in the WRC once more when he took tenth overall in his Skoda Fabia S2000.

A number of WRC drivers restarted under Rally 2 rules today, with Citroen Junior runner Thierry Neuville, Qatar World Rally Team’s Chris Atkinson and WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Paulo Nobre all reaching the finish. Armindo Aruajo (Nobre’s team-mate) finished 15th overall after losing time due to mechanical gremlins today.

P-G Andersson (Proton Satria Neo S2000) clinched the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship honours with Elfyn Evans coming out on top in the FIA WRC Academy. Full reports from these series will be published here in the week.

WRC Neste Oil Rally Finland Final Overall Classification:
01) S. Loeb – Citroën DS3 WRC – 02h 28m 11.4s
02) M. Hirvonen – Citroën DS3 WRC + 06.1s
03) J-M. Latvala – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 35.0s
04) P. Solberg – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 56.1s
05) M. Ostberg – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 02m 32.1s
06) O. Tanak – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 02m 47.6s
07) M. Rantanen – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 04m 51.7s
08) J. Ketomaa – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 06m 01.9s
09) M. Prokop – Ford Fiesta RS WRC + 06m 04.3s
10) S. Ogier – Skoda Fabia S2000 + 08m 46.0s