7 times World Rally Champion totally dominated this weekends round 5 of the 2011 Championship in Sardinia to take his 64th career win.
After taking the lead in the championship from Fords Mikko Hirvonen, after an Incredible rally Jordan. It meant that the Frenchman was first on the road for the weekend. But at the end of day 1 and with a lead of 33.2 seconds, he chose to keep his feet on the pedals to be first on the road for day 2. The question was, was this a good decision or will he be a sitting duck sweeping the road for the boys behind? Else where, there was drama all around. Fords Jari-Matti Latvala rolled on the first stage and damaging the suspension which finally broke on SS2 meaning it was over for the Fin. Henning Solberg caught fire after hitting a bridge but managed to continue, then a drive shaft went and then finally retired on SS7. Kris Meeke in the brand new Mini was setting great pace but crashed on SS3 from 4th place due to throttle problems.
Loeb struggled a little on day 2 and Petter Solberg started to close the gap, it was looking to be a close fight but on SS10 a puncture dropped Solberg out of that closing battle. But for me the star in terms of sheer pace on day 2 was Fords Jari-Matti Latvala, setting amazing pace and stage times, showing what could have been if it wasn’t for that rare mistake from Mikka on the first day. Latvala’s team mate Mikko Hirvonen was the closest to the Frenchman at the end of the day and got to within 23.8 seconds in 2nd place. Ogier finished to be 3rd on the road and Petter, still going flat out was 4th.
Day 3 Latvala again set amazing pace winning the first of the 2 morning stages. A great battle went on behind Seb Loeb, putting pressure on him as he was again cleaning the road. The gaps were closing in between Hirvonen, Ogier and Solberg as they battled for position and for the all important final 2 steps on the podium.
On the next stage Solberg went on Maximum attack and was 10 seconds faster than 2nd placed Hirvonen, but disaster for Ogier as a rock went under the car and damaged the suspension, putting him into 4th and out of the Podium fight.
The rally again came down to the final Power stage. With extra bonus points for grabs everyone was pushing. Latvala set the bench Mark for the others to beat. Solberg did his tactic of ‘Maximum attack’, but was over driving and went wide in a few places, and not setting the time he hoped for. The master was the other Ford man and went fastest, and picking up the 3 bonus points. Last of the top runs, and for the first time not first on the road, was Sebastian Loeb, who couldn’t set the same kind of pace as the ford boys on the narrow techincal hairpin filled Power stage and went 3rd fastest.
But most importantly for the Frenchman was he grabbed the win. After spending the whole weekend acting as a cleaner for the rest, it didn’t stop him from dominating the island of Sardinia. Mikko Hirvonen made the most of his second place with the bonus point to get a well needed 21points to keep his championship battle alive. Petter Solberg finally got a decent result although he hoped for better, but came away with the final step in the podium.
Final results after SS18:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h45m40.9s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 11.2s
3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 23.8s
4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m31.5s
5. Mads Ostberg Stobart Ford + 2m42.6s
6. Dani Sordo Mini + 3m27.6s
7. Ott Tanak MM Ford + 7m10.9s
8. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda + 7m37.6s
9. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 8m00.4s
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah Barwa Ford + 12m33.8s