Like a master composer, Sebastian Loeb laid out the battle plan for days 2 and 3. The plan was simple: score as many points as possible. Loeb would take this plan and perform what may be described as one of the greatest rally masterpieces of all time. The fifth round of the WRC 2010 campaign has produced fireworks from start to finish.
Jari-Matti Latvala would win the rally by 2.4 seconds over Sebastian Ogier after the Frenchman spun three corners from the finish. The most cruel finish to a rally for the Citroen Junior ace. This battle however would not be the main story going away from New Zealand. Sebastian Loeb who had all but given up after hitting a bridge on day 1 decided that he would set blistering pace after blistering pace. Taking a full 22secs in one stage at one point ending the second day only 5.3 seconds adrift. So lets recap….the champion made up 75 seconds in one day! Loeb would move and actually retake the lead that he had vacated on day 3 to only have the C4 go off. The off would not prove fatal to the car and Sebastian would end the rally in a remarkable third place. All in all this could be one of the most exciting rallies in a very very long time. There are however new storylines going forward.
Mikko Hirvonen would finish in the fifth place and really struggle all weekend. Which now leads one to the idea of who is the new number one at Ford? Latvala has an 8 point lead over his teammate but was made clear he would be the number two all year. Ford would take a record away from New Zealand as they have now surpassed Lancia as the most successful manufacturer of WRC history. That being said, the question will now start to hang over M-Sport as to whether or not Mikko can answer or do they switch focus to perhaps aiding Jari-Matti Latvala?
Sebastian Loeb put on one of the greatest drives of all time this weekend and this will be in the headlines for weeks to come as the Frenchman showed just how fast he can be if he needs to be. That has to put a damper on every driver in the service park as Loeb was able to climb back from the accident with almost ease. He went flat out during day 2 and 3 and just really put on a world class performance. While Ford was able to haul in a few points on Citroen this weekend, they still remain 5 back in the manufacturers championship. Sordo is really proving to be the Achilles for Citroen and this may very well be his last season in the works machine. Sebastian Ogier has now realized that he is just as good as any driver in the service park, but now must overcome his own gremlins in order to achieve that first WRC win. He will be a future champion and is the right man for the job if Sordo is removed.
The next event will be Rally Portugal at the end of this month. One can only hope that it will be as good as this one was, but that is a fat chance as this rally will go down as probably one of the greatest of all time. Be sure to tune into the Open paddock Podcast as we try and summarize this event. WOW!