Piloting a Citroen DS3 WRC alongside co-driver Daniel Elena, Loeb performed faultlessly to secure his 71st career victory after fending off a host of rivals. And by claiming three bonus points for winning the event-closing Power Stage, Loeb’s lead of the WRC drivers’ standings increases to 30 points with seven rounds remaining.
“This rally was so long and difficult,” said Loeb, who survived a scare on stage 20 when he stopped to change a left-rear puncture after three kilometres. “We had some fortune in the morning, but in general we had to fight really hard. It was really good. I tried to always keep my rhythm and do what I felt. I tried to manage the car and the tyres. I believe that everybody has done a great rally, Mikko, Petter and Jari-Matti.”
Petter Solberg started Sunday’s five stages trailing Loeb by 10.2s only to crash out on the opening test in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Norwegian’s misfortune - he tore a rear wheel off his car after striking a tree - promoted Loeb’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen up to second with Jari-Matti Latvala securing the final podium place in third. The Finn marked his return from injury by claiming 10 fastest stage times. “At least after a long time I’m back on the podium,” he said.
Behind Latvala, Mads Ostberg moved into third overall in the WRC standings by finishing fourth. Martin Prokop and Thierry Neuville also continued their strong scoring runs in fifth and sixth respectively.
Sebastien Ogier took seventh for Volkswagen Motorsport although team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen failed to finish after damaging his car’s suspension on Sunday’s opener.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi impressed by bringing his Fiesta Regional Rally Car home in eighth overall, followed by Ott Tanak and MINI driver Abdulaziz Alkuwari, who, like Al-Rajhi, scored in the world championship for the first time.
Suspected engine problems prevented Evgeny Novikov and Daniel Oliveira from getting through Sunday’s first test. Nasser Al-Attiyah also retired after rolling on the Aghii Theodori stage. WRC Team MINI Portugal duo Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre restarted under Rally 2 rules to finish 11th and 17th respectively.
Ukraine’s Oleksii Tamrazov finished 18th on his competition debut in a new-generation World Rally Car.