Both WRC championships could be closed out this weekend for the Rally Catalunya. One of those championships was won and Sebastian Loeb and Dani Sordo closed out the manufacturer’s title for Citroen with their dominant 1-2 finish. Mikko Hirvonen made sure that the driver’s title would go to a final round showdown after his podium finish. The Finnish driver did all he could to keep up with the Citroen pair and hold off Petter Solberg in his first competition rally in a C4.
The win marked Loeb’s fifth win in a row at the all tarmac event. Loeb claimed the victory to be tough due to Sordo’s quick pace. He was obviously lying through his teeth because there was no way Citroen was going to let Sordo win the rally unless Loeb had crashed. Hirvonen’s podium will now force a final showdown at Rally Great Britain later this month. The Finn still holds a one point advantage over the Frenchman as the surface goes from all tarmac to gravel, a surface the Focus RS WRC is better equipped to deal with.
Petter Solberg brought home his team’s leased Citroen C4 home in the fourth position and making a statement in the process. Solberg wanted people in the series to realize he is still fast and still a threat come the rally weekend. “This is the end of three years of frustration,” he said. “I just don’t have words for this now. I just keep thinking if… if I have been in a better position earlier, you know? It’s wrong to say it feels easy, but it feels so special. It’s a special moment for me to have this opportunity to drive this car. I thank the team and Citroen for letting me do this. I hope people see that I will be fast, but you need the support of a manufacturer team – it’s impossible to do it alone. In Wales I will be up there fighting.” That was Solberg’s remarks to WRC.com after the rally. Indeed Solberg will have a great chance to play spoiler in the final round as he will pilot the Citroen Junior squad C4. Speaking of the Citroen Junior squad, Sebastian Ogier puts up another spectacular result for his team and has made a statement as well that he should be considered for a future role with the head Citroen Total Team. Ogier could have taken a podium position this weekend, but a brake failure on Friday left him fighting for fifth place when the rally concluded. I said at the beginning of the year that Ogier had talent, granted he had a few problems in the middle of the season, he has really come on in the last few rounds to show his worth.
As for Capt. Crash, Jari-Matti Latvala finished the rally in a dismal sixth position. Latvala has cost Ford the constructor’s title this year. He has been slow all weekend and continued to bleed time on the final day. You know it is bad when he has to attend a tarmac rally school ahead of the competition. That obviously did not help at all and he continues to be the Achilles heel of the factory Ford outfit.
So wraps up the Spanish round of the WRC. The season finale will be the 23rd – 25th of October in Great Britain. Ford will be looking to snap Sebastian Loeb’s championship streak with Mikko Hirvonen behind the wheel. The strategy is simple, winner takes all. Unfortunately there will be variables that Mikko will have to overcome in his pursuit for a first WRC championship.