Sébastien Loeb has won the Spain Rally and extended his WRC lead. Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen celebrated second place and thus continues to have chances of winning the title. Jari-Matti Latvala, who came third, made a strong showing as well.
The Spain rally was marked by a dusty beginning. Record world champion Sébastien Loeb had the best prerequisites on the gravel sections. After starting from position one the Citroën driver in the DSR WRC left the competition in the dust and created a lead of almost half a minute to his immediate rival Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford), while the runner-up in the championship, Mikko Hirvonen, was doggedly fighting to maintain his chances of winning the WRC.
Loeb was the "man of the day" again on Saturday. The native of the Alsace had to watch out for Latvala though who was right on his heels after setting three fastest times. "That was the best day on tarmac in my whole career," said Latvala, who continued his performance on Sunday. But then the tables surprisingly turned. Latvala followed the top Ford team order and allowed his team-mate Hirvonen to advance to second place. "That's never a good feeling but something that needs to be done. I've got to simply accept the decision," said the 26-year-old.
Loeb on the other hand reached the finish without any kind of team order and celebrated his seventh consecutive win on the Iberian Peninsula. Before the finale the 37-year-old is leading the World Rally Championship with an eight-point advantage in front of Hirvonen. Loeb: "It was a really good rally for us. We made no mistakes, everything went perfectly." By contrast, Loeb's team rival Sébastien Ogier experienced a disappointing weekend. After several punctures the Frenchman retired on the last special stage due to engine failure. The 28-year-old went home empty-handed and thus lost any remaining chance of becoming world champion.
Dani Sordo finished fourth in Spain. The Mini driver had actually been hoping for a podium position in his home country but, in the end, was pleased with his performance nonetheless. "We're in a position we hadn't thought to be possible at the beginning of the year." His team-mate Kris Meeke finished with a big grin. The Briton burned the fastest time into the tarmac on the Power Stage and thus secured the first best time in his WRC career and, with a fifth-place finish, his so far strongest result of the season.
Petter Solberg was struck by misfortune in a major way. On Friday morning, in a heavy dust cloud, the privateer who had clinched the fastest time in shakedown collided with the concrete manhole cover of a drainage channel and damaged his suspension. Instead of starting again on the following day according to SupeRally regulations the 2003 world champion decided to retire. "We'd better concentrate on the finale in Wales now," he said.
Juho Hänninen on the other hand does not need to give any more thought to further WRC rounds. In the SWRC the Skoda driver celebrated his first world champion's title in the S2000 class. "What a day for all of us. Simply incredible. The biggest exploit in my career."