Rally – Loeb Cruising in France

Sebastian Loeb has started his France homecoming the only way he knows how by coming out and opening a 22sec lead after the first leg. Loeb is in prime position to take home the title this weekend and that has been the aim of Citroen the whole time. Take the C4’s last championship on home soil. Other notable happenings this weekend has been Ken Block’s return too tarmac and the overall Ford implosion that has been 2010. Fortunately for the Ford team, Jari-Matti Latvala was able to take two stage wins on tarmac! Which that in itself is a victory.

The tarmac in France was covered with mud on the first day which made for rather slick conditions. That would play well into the hands of the Ford boys, but Sebastian Loeb would take the lead from the start and never look back. The current positioning would see Sebastian win an unprecedented 7th championship. Teammate Dani Sordo would make a late charge that would see him slot into 2nd position with Citroen Junior driver and heir to the throne Sebastian Ogier end the first leg in P3.

Ogier made no secret that he was going to push all out this weekend but you can’t look much into that as Citroen will keep Seb 2.0 down in the running order to ensure Loeb claims the championship on home soil. I would see him finishing P3 at best this weekend.

The media circus duo of Raikkonen and Block had a rather uneventful day. Raikkonen could not get above P7 on tarmac and Block would finish P10 with an early spin on SS4. Still a rather good performance for Block who has had limited time on tarmac and a little bit of a lacking performance for Kimi who is supposed to be a tarmac specialist. That really sums up Kimi’s rookie year however and we will have to wait and see the verdict for 2011 plans. Many think that Kimi is trying to get more money and make himself look a better option for Citroen, but the bottom line is Citroen just don’t care enough about Kimi to really warrant him sticking around that outfit another season. Citroen don’t even pay Sebastian Ogier, what would be the purpose of keeping Kimi?

The factory Ford boys continue to look terrible. Granted the funding for the Focus program is over and done, their showing this year has been nothing short of terrible. Latvala would win stages 5 and 8 today and I find myself starting to like Captain Crash. While Mikko has all but given up this year, Jari has been pushing hard and getting results to show it. I am actually hoping to see him still at the factory team next year as he could be really exciting in the Fiesta. Mikko has disappointed me to put it lightly. He showed such great pace in Monte Carlo and Sweden, but this year is just been awful for the number one. His fortunes are not looking much better this weekend as the Ford suffered suspension damage on SS8 in the form of a broken wheel. Hirvonen was lucky not to have a much worse situation on his hands.

Petter Solberg has ran well after the first leg of the rally. The Citroen driver would see his C4 into fifth position after Latvala would take 4th away. Solberg would run a second car with Yvan Muller at the helm. The touring car ace would not do overly well as the engine would stop in transit during the morning stages. Muller is set to restart again Saturday but will have a full plate on his hands as he attacks Rally France.

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