Loeb, whose victory was his 73rd in the world championship and puts him equal with Finnish rallying legend Juha Kankkunen on the list of all-time Rally Finland winners, overcame a stern challenge from Citroen team-mate and local hero Mikko Hirvonen to triumph by 6.1s as the thrilling high-speed gravel event ended with a second pass of the famous Ouninpohja stage this evening.
“For sure it’s very satisfying to win in Finland,” said Loeb, who extended his lead of the WRC drivers’ standings to 43 points heading to ADAC Rallye Deutschland later this month. “I didn’t come here especially to win, I came for points because it’s very difficult to beat the Finnish drivers. It was a great fight with Mikko, a one-two for Citroen and great for the championship.”
For Hirvonen, the two seconds he dropped with a sensor glitch on Friday’s final test, coupled with the delay he encountered nudging a tree on stage 13, means his wait for his first WRC win with Citroen continues.
“Sebastien was just faster and congratulations to him,” said Hirvonen, who gained some consolation by winning the Power Stage to bag three WRC bonus points. “Second position in Finland makes it even worse but if you do a perfect rally it is not enough against Sebastien. You have to do more because he is incredible.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was the leading Ford finisher in third with Petter Solberg fourth in an identical Fiesta RS WRC. It was a frustrating event for the Blue Oval pair, who had been tipped to challenge for victory but ultimately conceded that they didn’t have the speed to beat their Citroen rivals on this occasion.
Adapta Fiesta pilot Mads Ostberg fought back from a mechanical failure on the second Leustu stage to reclaim fifth from Ott Tanak on the first run through Ouninpohja. Tanak, from Estonia, drove without error in his M-Sport Fiesta to end a miserable recent run of form in sixth position.
Matti Rantanen demoted Jari Ketomaa for seventh when the latter’s Fiesta picked up a front-left puncture on stage 15. Martin Prokop took ninth with Sebastien Ogier claiming the final point for Volkswagen Motorsport. The Frenchman had trailed Ken Block starting the final day but when Block retired with a broken control arm bracket and a loss of steering on Saturday’s second stage, Ogier was left in the clear.
Armindo Araujo dropped back in the battle to finish as the leading MINI John Cooper Works WRC driver after a trip into a ditch left his car with damaged suspension on stage 16 and put him behind privateer Riku Tahko. However, when Tahko crashed on the first Ouninpohja stage, Araujo was able to capitalise.
Several drivers restarted under Rally 2 rules following retirements on day two with Citroen Junior runner Thierry Neuville, Qatar World Rally Team’s Chris Atkinson and WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Paulo Nobre all reaching the finish.
With co-driver Denis Giraudet nursing a sore back following a heavy landing on stage four, Evgeny Novikov, who dropped out of contention when he crashed on stage five, drove steadily to reach the end.
Sebastian Lindholm, 51, achieved his aim of finishing on his first WRC start since 2007 and his first Rally Finland since 2005.
P-G Andersson clinched FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship honours fopr PROTON with Elfyn Evans coming out on top in the FIA WRC Academy.