Seven-time champion Sebastien Loeb says his victory on Neste Oil Rally Finland last week was among the best of his 66th triumphs at world level.
Citroen driver Loeb was forced to run at the head of the field on all three days of the gravel event, yet fought through to seal victory to become the first non-Nordic driver to win the high-speed gravel rally twice.
“I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s not far from it,” said the 37-year-old French ace. “It’s an amazing feeling, Finland is always special. It’s what I always say, it’s the most difficult to win in the season. This year we had a great fight with Seb [Ogier] and Jari-Matti [Latvala] – every stage was very, very fast. Every evening they came behind, but maybe it was a good thing I had to be first on the road. Sometimes it was no problem, sometimes it dried up and there was more gravel. I didn’t know if I would win until two or three stages from the end always we had some hope, but it was big pressure and difficult. Finally, we won and it’s a great feeling.”
Loeb claimed his first win in Finland in 2008 following a close fight with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen. However, he said winning the event for a second time this season meant even more to him.
“It was special to win in 2008 but this year I have driven the perfect rally,” said Loeb. “It was difficult sweeping the road but everything was perfect, the car the pace notes. We had no issues, we just pushed and it’s a great relief to win.”
Loeb’s co-driver Daniel Elena added: “He was fantastic, in fact he is like a good wine, the more old he gets the better he is. We have a lot of victories – winning the title in Alsace was a great moment – but winning Finland for a second time is very fantastic because we were pushing to the maximum.”
Loeb is now 27 points clear of Hirvonen in the drivers’ standings heading to ADAC Rallye Deutschland later this month. Loeb has never been defeated on the all-asphalt event.