Citroen star Sebastien Loeb has clinched his fourth consecutive World Rally Championship after a caution run to third place behind the dominate Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and title rival Marcus Gronholm on the Rally GB.
Gronholm need to out-score his championship rival Loeb by seven points in the season finale to snatch the title in his final rally before retiring from full-time competition. In the end, the Finn admitted he lost the opportunity after crashing out in the previous event, the Rally of Ireland.
Having led the drivers’ standings for most of the year, Gronholm said he still rued the crash in
“I am disappointed of course, but it was a difficult rally this one, and we lost the title in
For Loeb, this result means he is one of the most successful rally drivers of the modern era. To take his fourth crowd is an impressive achievement and when interviewed after finishing third, the Frenchman couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.
“It’s incredible,” said Loeb. “To get the championship with only four points lead is not the same as getting it with 40 points (lead) like some years ago. It’s a really, really good moment.”
When asked if this was his most difficult championship battle yet, Loeb replied: “For sure, no comparison.”
Even though the Rally GB was overshadowed by the Loeb versus Gronholm title battle, it was Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen who actually won the event. It was the Finn’s third win of the season but on the final special stage, he nearly lost control of his car!
“We went off, and I didn’t plan it!” Hirvonen joked. “This season has been absolutely fantastic, and finishing it like this is the best preparation for next year.”
Indeed, next year WRC is just around the corner with the Rally of Monte Carlo in January. With Marcus Gronholm hanging up his helmet – who will challenge the mighty Sebastien Loeb? No doubt 2008 will be another fascinating contest between these great rally drivers in all kinds of track surfaces and conditions.