Despite the best efforts of Ford drivers Francois Duval and Mikko Hirvonen, the Citroën World Rally Team dominated Rallye Deutschland over the weekend with the team’s two cars finishing one-two, ahead of Duval in third.
 
Loeb’s win – his seventh consecutive victory on the German all-tarmac event – took him to the top of the World Rally Championship drivers’ points table as the WRC teams prepare to head down-under for Repco Rally New Zealand on 28-31 August.
 
The Frenchman now has 76 points, four more than Hirvonen who finished Rallye Deutschland fourth. This is the sixth time the lead in the WRC drivers’ championship has changed hands this season, highlighting the intense battle between Loeb, the defending world champion, and Hirvonen.
 
“After beating our main rival [Hirvonen] on his home event [Finland], we had no intention of letting anybody else take victory in Germany,” commented Loeb. “Our C4 WRC handled perfectly impeccably from start to finish and we got our tyre calls right every time, switching from the Pirelli ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ options as a function of the conditions.”
 
Crossing the finish ramp in second, Citroën’s Dani Sordo helped take Citroën to the top of the manufacturers’ standings. Before Rallye Deutschland, Citroën was three points behind the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team; now they’re eight points in front.
 
Sordo said Rallye Deutschland isn’t his favourite asphalt event because its format doesn’t let drivers settle into a real rhythm. “We must now knuckle down to try to repeat the same sort of performance,” said the Spanish 25-year-old.
 
Day one saw Stobart Ford driver Gigi Galli crash, with the rest of the stage cancelled and Galli airlifted to hospital with a broken leg. The popular Italian driver is recovering well after surgery on Friday night. However, doctors say that Galli will be unable to walk on the leg for six to eight weeks. The team says a decision regarding Galli’s replacement for rest of the season, including Repco Rally New Zealand, will be made “...in due course”. Officials also had to cancel another stage that day due to overenthusiastic spectators.
 
François Duval, driving for the second time this season for the Stobart Ford team, put in a stunning performance to take third place. Duval delivered the fastest times on all four special stages on the final day to win an epic battle for the final rostrum spot against BP Ford’s Hirvonen. Duval said it was always going to be a big challenge to fight for a win as the other drivers have been competing all year. “But we have made improvements with the setup and learnt about the tyres so there are many positives. The experience will help for the next two tarmac events we are doing.”
 
Subaru team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson took fifth and sixth behind Hirvonen, with the team’s technical director David Lapworth pleased to learn more about the performance of the new Impreza on tarmac. “We’re now in a much better position ahead of the two remaining tarmac rallies, rounds 12 and 13 in Spain and Corsica with a very clear direction for our continued asphalt development,” said Lapworth.

Henning Solberg was seventh for Stobart Ford – his first points on tarmac. The Citroen privateer Urmo Aava was eighth, Jari-Matti Latvala ninth and Toni Gardemeister made sure to score a manufacturers’ point for Suzuki by taking tenth place.
 
Suzuki World Rally Team manager, Paul Wilding is upbeat heading to the next round on the other side of the world in New Zealand in two weeks’ time. “It’s great to have two cars at the finish of such a tough rally,” said Wilding. “The consistency we have demonstrated here shows that all the hard work is paying off, and puts us in a strong position to build on our solid progress throughout the remaining rounds of the championship, on both gravel and asphalt.”
 
Repco Rally New Zealand is the next event on the WRC calendar, just two weeks after Rally Deutschland, which was only two weeks after Rally Finland – three very different events in an intense six week period.
 
Packed airfreight containers will be on their way to New Zealand now with teams commencing their set-up at rally headquarters, Mystery Creek Events Centre, on Saturday 23 August. The WRC teams commence their reconnaissance of the event’s popular rally stages on Tuesday 26 August, the route taking the entrants through parts of the Waikato, Raglan, Otorohanga, Waitomo and Franklin districts.
 
The official ceremonial start of Repco Rally New Zealand takes place on the evening of Thursday 28 August in Hood Street, Hamilton. Three days of competitive rallying follow, covering 354 kilometres in the rally’s special stages amongst 1218 kilometres of touring stages.
 
As well as being the 11th of 15 rounds in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship, Repco Rally New Zealand is the sixth of eight rounds in the 2008 FIA Production World Rally Championship and the penultimate round in the 2008 Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship.
 
The official rally programme, map, tickets and merchandise are available from Repco stores or visit www.rallynz.org.nz for regular news updates and spectator viewing options.
 
Photo information: Free to use. Will the Citroens of Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo (pictured in action in New Zealand last year) score a historic one-two victory in Repco Rally New Zealand in a fortnight’s time, as they have just done in Rallye Deutschland?
 
Rallye Deutschland – Final Results (subject to final scrutineering)
1, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Citroën C4 WRC
2, Dani Sordo/Marc Marti, Citroën C4 WRC
3, François Duval/Patrick Pivato, Ford Focus RS WRC
4, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC
5, Petter Solberg/Phil Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC 2008
6, Chris Atkinson/Stéphane Prévot, Subaru Impreza WRC 2008
7, Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC
8, Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk, Citroën C4 WRC
 
2008 WRC Drivers’ Championship
1, S Loeb, 76pts
2, M Hirvonen, 72pts
3, D Sordo, 43pts
4, C Atkinson, 40pts
5, J-M Latvala, 34pts
6, P Solberg, 27pts
 
2008 WRC Manufacturers’ Championship
1, Citroen Total, 123pts
2, BP Ford Abu Dhabi, 115pts
3, Subaru, 69pts
4, Stobart VK M-Sport, 51pts
5, Munchi's Ford, 19pts
6, Suzuki, 13pts

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