But perhaps the most momentous last non-French win in a Citroen occurred on Rally Argentina one year before when Spanish hero Carlos Sainz claimed his 26th and final FIA World Rally Championship victory, taking the lead after Peugeot’s Marcus Gronholm crashed out on the Cosquin-Allende stage under pressure from the two-time world champion.
In the end, the 42-year-old Sainz (pictured) won by a minute and a half from Sebastien Loeb: a one-two for Citroen. As Sainz walked into rally headquarters for the final press conference like a conquering matador, the assembled journalists rose up to give him a standing ovation: a rare occurrence indeed.
As Loeb himself commented at the time: “this rally just goes to show why Carlos Sainz is Carlos Sainz.”
It was Sainz’s last full year in the Citroen factory team, although he was called back for two rallies the following year to substitute for the suspended Duval.
The last Finnish winner in a French car was also some time ago: Gronholm on Rally Japan in 2005 in a Peugeot 307 WRC. As always, Gronholm was co-driven by his brother-in-law Timo Rautiainen: one of the stewards on the Rally Italia Sardegna last weekend.
Their final victory for Peugeot in Japan was a highly emotional one: on the previous event their team-mate Michael Park had been killed while co-driving on Wales Rally GB. Gronholm and Rautianen were assured of the win after Petter Solberg, who was leading, crashed his Subaru in Japan.
Curiously, Mikko Hirvonen was making a one-off appearance for Skoda Motorsport in Japan that year, also ending his rally with a heavy accident.
These days, he’s determined that it’s not going to be another seven years before a Finn in a French car stands on the top step of the podium.