Rally racing star Sebastien Loeb was crowned World Rally Champion for a third time in a row...a little early. Loeb's title was secured at a race he wasn't even at, let alone racing in. And he didn't race in the stage before that one, either. Plus there are still two stages left to go, but the title's his whether he comes back to race or not.
The champ watched the Rally of Australia on Sunday from his home in France as he recuperates from a mountain bike injury. His main rival, two-time champion Marcus Gronholm (driving a Ford Focus) failed to finish in the top four in Australia, giving Loeb an air-tight twenty-one point lead, securing the title early. Between the two of them, Gronholm and Loeb won 13 out of 14 races so far this season, virtually locking out the rest of the field.
Two rally stages remain, in New Zealand (November 17-19) and Wales (December 1-3). But with the pressure off, the French driver is likely to focus on his healing and rehab a little longer before hopefully returning for the final stage in Wales. The win is even more remarkable when you consider that Loeb races for Kronos Racing, a private team supported by Citroen Sport, while other rivals race for full factory works teams.
Congratulations to Sebastien along with wishes for a full recovery as he sets his sights on the future to break the records of Finnish drivers Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen, who each hold four championships. Next season Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena leave their old Citroen Xsara behind and move into the new C4.