06 Jun 08
World Championship leader Sebastien Loeb says that when it comes to speed Jari-Matti Latvala is his closest rival this year, but Mikko Hirvonen remains the biggest threat to his title defence.
After notching up his 41st WRC win on the most recent round in Greece, Loeb edged one point clear of Hirvonen in the Drivers’ standings, and closer to his goal of a fifth consecutive drivers’ title.
Speaking exclusively to wrc.com, Loeb said he wasn’t surprised that Hirvonen was the closest after seven rounds because the Ford driver had a better finishing record. “Mikko is very consistent; he has finished all the rallies this year and that’s important in any season,” said Loeb. “Now the points difference between us is slim, which just shows that sometimes it’s better to be sure to finish.”
Loeb accepted that Hirvonen’s steady hit rate had prevented him from building the series lead he had anticipated. “I didn’t really have any plan at the start of the season but I was hoping maybe to have a bigger lead at this stage,” he said.” But when you look at how the season has gone - the fact that we’ve won five races from seven - that’s more than I expected. The only thing is we didn’t score any points on two rallies, and that’s our problem. I made a mistake in Sweden but we were very unlucky in Jordan, but okay, what can you do?”
Loeb said he had been surprised by Jari-Matti Latvala’s pace this year. “We noticed at the start of the season that he was really competitive and really fast,” said Loeb. “For sure he’s quick but he has made a few mistakes and that’s why the championship looks the way it does. But I think he’s the fastest of all my rivals this year.”
But despite Latvala’s speed, Loeb reckons that Hirvonen will be the bigger threat in the second half of the season. “Jari-Matti is faster but at the moment Mikko has more experience and also more points. Jari-Matti seems to have a little too much bad luck for the moment,” he said.
The full Loeb interview can be found in the features section. This link will take you straight there: Sebastien Loeb interview