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Loeb tightens championship grip


Sebastien Loeb got the better of a fierce battle with Marcos Gronholm to win last weekend’s Cyprus Rally and edge closer to his third consecutive World Rally Championship.

Citroen Xsara WRC driver Loeb said conditions in Cyprus were “more like what you find in Greece (where Ford’s Gronholm won).

“Citroen gathered a lot of data from the Acropolis and worked very hard in testing. My Xsara was
entirely competitive here compared to (Gronholm’s Ford Focus RS).

“I hope it will continue to be so over the next four rallies, so that we can win the drivers’ title and bring the Kronos Total Citroen team the maximum number of points in a very open and exciting manufacturers’ championship.”

Going into the rally’s final stage on Sunday, Gronholm trailed Loeb by 25.6 seconds. Gronholm won the test, but by only four seconds, and the win was Loeb’s.

Mikko Hirvonen brought his works Focus home third, giving Ford much needed points in the
manufacturers’ standings and with Citroen’s Dani Sordo not scoring points, that closed the gap to Citroen.

“This is a great result for our challenge in the manufacturers’ championship,” said Gronholm. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite fast enough to beat Loeb here. The roads are so twisty that for some corners, it is necessary to change right down to first gear. That’s the big difference between here and the hot, rough rally in Greece that we won in June. We had no big problems with the car; again it was so strong in these conditions. It was so hot here that it was like a bad sauna.”

Loeb started the final day with a 21.8-second lead. He won Sunday’s first stage by seven seconds, from Gronholm. The Finn won the next two stages by mere seconds.

Fourth was taken by Manfred Stohl in his OMV Peugeot Norway Peugeot 307 WRC. Toni Gardemeister finished in a Citroen Xsara. 

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