The results were sealed when multiple champion Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena won this past weekend's Rally of Spain. The victory ensured that the Citroën World Rally Team could not be caught by Ford, even though there is still one round to go before the 13-rally calendar draws to a close in Wales next month.
Although the Manufacturers' Title is all tied up, however, the Drivers' Title is still in contention. Loeb holds an eight-point lead over his nearest rival, Mikko Hirvonen. Sebastien Ogier in the other Citroën DS3 WRC was also in contention for the title until his car broke down with engine problems.
That leaves Loeb in the lead for his eighth consecutive world championship, but with Hirvonen not far behind in his Fiesta RS, nothing's for sure just yet. Details in the press release after the jump.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena drove a perfect race on the Catalonian gravel and killed two birds with one stone thanks to the sixty-seventh victory of their career. First, they gave the Citroën Total World Rally Team their seventh world title with one round still to go before the end of the season. And secondly, their win has put them back in the overall lead in the Drivers' World Championship chase. The outcome of the battle for the title will be decided in Wales in just under three weeks' time.
Loeb and Elena, who had a thirty second lead over their nearest rival, were determined to convert their position into a fifth victory of the season. After making the best tyre choice, they were able to control the gap in the first leg and set the fastest time in Coll de la Teixeta (SS15), the special used for the Power Stage.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who set off in fifth position, started the day well with two fastest times and two second places. Just when they were on the point of snatching fourth in the overall classification they had to stop their Citroën DS3 WRC in the second-to-last stage due to an engine problem. Without scoring any points in Spain, Ogier is no longer in the running for the Drivers' World Championship.
The Power Stage became the focal point of interest at the end of the race because of the bonus points on offer. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were on hard tyres on the soaking wet tarmac and did not take any unnecessary risks. Nevertheless, they set the third-quickest time synonymous of a bonus point. "We're very relieved to have won. It really wasn't an easy victory, and we had to fight to the very end," explained Loeb after celebrating his sixty-seventh win on his 150th start in the world championship.
"Today, choosing the right tyres was a bit complicated because of the uncertain weather. We were not really in the best position for the Power Stage but we still managed to score a point, which could prove very useful for us in three weeks! On tarmac, you have to adopt a very precise driving style rather like on a circuit. However, this year we laid the foundations of our victory on gravel in the first leg."
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will start Rally Great Britain with a lead of eight points over Mikko Hirvonen: "For the moment we're celebrating Citroën's seventh title! But the drivers' crown is far from over. Mikko Hirvonen has done a good job by finishing second here and we know he'll be competitive on the stages in Wales. We must finish in front of him. The best thing we could do would be to win. So our destiny is in our own hands!"
While awaiting the final duel between Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen, the whole Citroën Total World Rally Team is savouringtheir seventh world title as Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal, underlines: "Today, we're very proud of our World Championship title, the fourth in succession for Citroën. It's the result of consistent work by a calm and humble team. We've stuck together through the hard times. We've won ten out of the twelve rallies held so far, which is a pretty good score. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia should also be associated with this result, as they had a great season despite their retirement this weekend. We're going to analyse his car in the workshops to find out exactly what the problem was, but we already know that it isn't linked to Sébastien Loeb's retirement in France. We had two objectives this season, the drivers' title and manufacturers' crown. Today, we fulfilled one of them!"
*Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.