World rally champion Sebastien Loeb won his fifth successive Rally Deutschland victory last Sunday, and equalled the record of 26 WRC victories held by Carlos Sainz.
“I want to really savour the feeling of equalling Carlos Sainz’ record number of wins,” said a delighted Loeb after taking the win. “I’ve never hidden the fact that this is a record I really wanted, because of the immense respect I have for Carlos and his career.
Yet, it’s still a benchmark I want to beat.”
Loeb didn’t even need to win a special stage on the final day to score his sixth win of the 2006 World Rally Championship. Loeb now has a drivers’ series 33 points lead over Ford Focus RS driver Marcus Gronholm who was third in last weekend’s German Rally.
“I love the Rallye Deutschland and it has always been good to me,” Loeb said. “But it’s fair to say that the traditionally complex weather makes it quite a stressful experience. There was a bit of extra pressure on top as well. I had to make sure I made no mistakes on my home territory (though French, Loeb was raised near the German border) and score the maximum number
of points for the championship.”
Loeb’s Team Kronos teammate Daniel Sordo finished second, winning one stage win during the three days and maintained his pace on Sunday to finish just over 30 seconds behind Loeb. “The new car with mechanical differentials was really good to drive in the very tricky road conditions,” he said.
Even though Toni Gardemeister gave it all he could to notch a podium spot, the Citroen WRC driver couldn’t overhaul Gronholm.
Gronholm said a podium was “a good, solid finish and after a difficult rally I have to be happy with that. But I had hoped to be fighting with the Citroen
of Sebastien Loeb for victory rather than the similar car of Gardemeister for third.
“But I wasn’t happy in the rain on Friday and so there was no chance of that.”
His teammate Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford suffered a broken alternator which dropped him to ninth after starting Sunday fifth. He copped a five minute penalty for accepting help to get to the final stage finish.
Manfred Stohl was fifth in his Peugeot 307 WRC. “(The German Rally is) very difficult,” he said. “You are forced to constantly test your limits.”
Andreas Aigner took sixth in his Red Bull Skoda Fabia.
Loeb heads to next week’s Finnish Rally in positive mood. “(Gronholm) wanted to beat me here in Germany; now it’s my turn to try and make life difficult for him in his back yard.”