Citroen dominate Germany
- 14th August 2006, 8:44am
The German win also places Loeb equal with Carlos Sainz as the most successful rally driver of all time, with 26 WRC wins. Remarkably, Loeb, who is only 32, has achieved this tally in just five years, a third of the time it took the Spanish rally driver during his 15 year (1990-2004) WRC career.
The win also provides Loeb with a 33 point cushion between him and second place title chaser, Marcus Gronholm, while in the manufacturers’ race Citroën leads Ford by 23 points.
Germany also marked another benchmark for the Citroën Xsara, with 30 WRC wins now in its account, made all the more remarkable as it is effectively a 2004 car up against the latest 2006 rally models, amply demonstrating the quality of the Xsara and the skills of its designers, Citroën MotorSport.
Although the Rally of Germany is classed as tarmac event, its surfaces are highly varied, with some sections being held on normal sealed roads, while others are held on cement roads in a tank training ground. This mix makes tyre choice and local knowledge critical, with these factors further compounded this year by rain. Loeb, who, although French, knows this area, its roads and climate like the back of his hand, as he was born just on the other side of the Franco-German border and this event is much more his home rally than the Rally of France, which is held on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Loeb stamped his authority on the event right from the start, taking the lead on stage one and never losing it. Indeed, on day one the fastest stage times were split between the Citroën drivers, no other team getting a look-in.
At the end of Day One, the other teams rued their tyre choices, with Gronholm admitting that his tyre choices were so bad, it would take the rest of the event simply to claw back the time lost on the first day. He was proven right, because although he climbed up on the third step of the podium at the end of the event, he was still 2 minutes and 19 seconds off Loeb’s finishing time, almost the margin at the end of day one. So, although he got back on the pace on day two, all he could was stop Loeb expanding his substantial winning margin.
The event was even worse for Subaru, with poor tyre choices compounded by engine problems leaving lead driver Solberg out of the event on day two with an engine failure and Sarrazin crashing on day three, leaving Aussie driver Chris Atkinson to put in another mature drive that belies his youth and unfamiliarity with the conditions to finish 8th, giving Subaru a single manufacturer’s point from the event.
“I love the Rallye Deutschland and it has always been good to me, » said a delighted Seb at the finish. “But it's fair to say that the traditionally complex weather makes it quite a stressful experience. There was a bit of extra pressure on top as well: I had to make sure I made no mistakes on my home territory and score the maximum number of points for the championship. Now it's over and I can relax a bit! I want to really savour the feeling of equalling Carlos Sainz's record number of wins. I've never hidden the fact that this is a record I really wanted, because of the immense respect I have for Carlos and his career. Yet it's still a benchmark I want to beat!”
“We had an entirely clean and trouble-free run,” added Seb. “We didn't make any mistakes and the team didn't put a foot wrong either, particularly when it came to tyre choice – whether it was performance we were after, like Friday, or safety like today and yesterday. We're heading to Finland on a very positive note now. Marcus [Grönholm] wanted to beat me here in Germany: now it's my turn to try and make life difficult for him in his back yard!”
Directly behind the double World Champions, Dani Sordo/Marc Marti answered all expectations by ensuring the team a precious one-two. It was the first time that the Spanish crew were nominated to score manufacturer points. The reigning Junior World Champion was as free of mistakes as his team leader, while showing an impressive turn of speed.
He was understandably delighted, saying: “Citroen Sport has done a fantastic job: the new car with mechanical differentials was really good to drive in the very tricky road conditions we encountered – which I was facing for the first time at the wheel of a World Rally Car.”
“Marc Van Dalen and the entire Kronos team showed a lot of faith in me by nominating me to score points,” continued Dani. “I am really pleased to thank them by bringing back the maximum possible number of points. I'm also really pleased to see that my pace notes – made last year when I was driving the C2 VTS– worked perfectly. I'd like to thank Marc [Marti] who has always pushed me to get my notes absolutely right. Finally, I'd like to thank Seb. He has been incredibly good to me, and his advice on tyres and setup is a huge help.”
Kronos Racing team principal Marc Van Dalen commented: “Once more, everything worked perfectly. The Citroen Sport development team has enabled us to find a set-up which is as easy to drive as it is effective. Kronos, with the help of BFGoodrich and Meteo France, has been able to get the best out of the Xsara. Our second one-two of the season makes me really happy, and we also have the pride of seeing Seb equal the highest number of victories in the World Championship and the Xsara rack up its 30th World Championship success. Xevi Pons was sadly not too happy here. Our objective for him today was to rebuild his confidence. The times he set this morning show that this mission was accomplished. So everything here is a great source of motivation to us as we prepare for the massive challenge that is Rally Finland next weekend.”
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