38th Repco Rally New Zealand - A one-two finish for the 'All Reds' in New Zealand!
The 11th round of the 2008 World Rally Championship in New Zealand produced a breathtaking finale which saw Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena clinch the spoils to secure a landmark 50th WRC success for Citroen at the end of the three-day event. Today's result takes the defending champions further clear at the top of the provisional Drivers' standings, while a magnificent second place for Dani Sordo/Marc Marti made it a resounding one-two finish for Citroen Total which has comforted its lead in the Manufacturers' points table.
The decisive third leg of this year's Rally New Zealand featured a little more than 85km of competitive action to the west of host town Hamilton. The programme was based on a loop of two stages to be contested twice each, before the weekend's third and final attempt at the Mystery Creek super-special which rounded off the event.
The two Citroen Sport crews profited from the mid-morning's remote service halt in Raglan to analyse the situation: "We span on SS12 (Te Hutewai 1)," reported Sebastien Loeb. "That cost us valuable seconds and we failed to recover them entirely on the following test, Whaanga Coast. There are still three stages to come and we are 17.7 seconds behind the leader and 14.5s off second spot. We haven't yet said our last word, though, and we have no intention of giving up. We will continue to push…"
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were pleased with the way their day had started: "We tried to make the most of the fact that we are running fourth on the road today," commented the young Spaniard. "I have never had a good run on the last day in New Zealand, but things seem to be going much better this time round and that confirms the good feeing I have had here so far. We will try not to take our eye off the ball because so much can still happen…"
How right he was! As the tension soared, Sebastien, Daniel and their C4 WRC put in a stunning run over Te Hutewai 2 (SS14) to close to within 15.3s of first place. The reigning World Champion takes up the story: "We were aware that this was probably too big a gap to bridge in normal circumstances but we never gave up, and our efforts ended up paying! It's becoming something of a tradition for the last day of this rally to produce nail-biting finishes. I am obviously delighted to have won this event which I really enjoy and which has taken me further clear at the top of the championship." Today's victory was Seb and Daniel's 44th world class win.
Meanwhile, Dani and Marc succeeded in bagging a remarkable second place. "I'm obviously thrilled to have finished on the podium here," exulted Dani. "It's fantastic to have contributed to a one-two finish for the team and to have played a part in what has turned out to be a big points haul for Citroen. I'm also delighted with the feeling I had here in New Zealand. I still lack experience of this terrain, but I was able to see that I have made progress since last year's visit. My feeling with the C4 is improving all the time and my times are getting closer and closer to those of the top loose surface experts. The bottom line of our weekend here could hardly be better!"
"It's been an exceptional weekend which has ended in a fantastic one-two for Citroen," beamed Olivier Quesnel. "Rallying is such an exciting sport. We never tire of saying that victory is never in the bag until the finish line has been crossed, and we saw that once again today! Everyone in the team responded perfectly to the way the weekend unfolded and that put our two crews in a strong position going into the last day. That in turn enabled them to push their rivals into making mistakes. Sebastien and Daniel have once again showcased their talent and their ability to cope with pressure. This is also an ideal result for their chances in the 2008 Drivers' championship, while second place for Dani and Marc is a just reward for their overall performance here in New Zealand. They didn't make a single mistake and posted some remarkable times. The other satisfying aspect of this rally was the reliability of our two C4 WRCs, and we have increased our lead in the Manufacturers' standings with the asphalt rounds still to come. Last but not least, I would like to congratulate Urmo Aava and Kuldar Sikk for their fifth place in the Citroen Sport Technologies C4."
Final leaderboard on 38th Repco Rallye New Zealand (11/15) 1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroen C4) 3 h 59 min 18,9 s 2. D. Sordo/M. Marti (Citroen C4) + 17,5 s 3. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus) + 41,5 s 4. P. Solberg/P. Mills (Subaru Impreza) + 2 min 56,6 s 5. U. Aava/K. Sikk (Citroen C4) + 3 min 49,8 s 6. PG. Andersson/J. Andersson (Suzuki X4) + 4 min 31 s 7. T. Gardemeister/T. Tuominen (Suzuki X4) + 6 min 37,4 s 8. F. Villagra/JM. Companc (Ford Focus) + 6 min 56,8 s 9. H. Solberg/C. Mennkerud (Ford Focus) + 9 min 18,7 s 10. M. Prokop/J Tomanek (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 13 min 35,9 s
FIA World rally Championship's rankings ‘Manufacturers' (round 11/15)* 1. Citroen-Total, 141 pts – 2. Ford, 121 points – 3. Subaru, 74 pts – 4. Stobart, 51 pts – 5. Munchi's, 22 pts – 6. Suzuki, 20 pts.
FIA World rally Championship's rankings ‘Drivers' (round 11/15)* 1. S. Loeb, 86 pts – 2. M. Hirvonen, 78 points – 3. D. Sordo, 51 pts – 4. C. Atkinson, 40 pts – 5. JM. Latvala, 34 pts – 6. P. Solberg, 32 pts – 7. H. Solberg, 22 pts – 8. G. Galli, 17 pts – 9. M. Wilson, 12 pts – 10. F. Duval, 11 pts – 11. U. Aava, 11 pts – 12. F. Villagra, 9 pts – 13. C. Rautenbach, 6 pts – 14. T. Gardemeister, 5 pts – 15. A. Mikkelsen, 4 pts – 16. PG. Andersson, 4 pts – 17. JM. Cuoq, 2 pts – 18. M. Rantanen, 2 pts – 19. A. Aigner, 1 pt – 20. J. Hanninen, 1 pt – 21. S. Ogier, 1 pt .