CARDIFF, October 26 – Sebastien Loeb of France in a Citroen C4 won the Rally of Great Britain here on Sunday to clinch the World Rally championship for the sixth straight year.In the 12th and last race of the season, Loeb’s sole remaining rival for the title, Mikko Hirvonen of Finland, driving a Ford Focus, clawed his way back to within 18 seconds of the overnight leader by winning the first two special stages on Sunday.
But his chances soon vanished as the bonnet of his car burst open on the next special as it went over a bumpy rise.
The Finn was forced to stop the vehicle and then had to tear off the hood as it was the only way he could continue.
That allowed Loeb to stretch his lead to 1 minute 25 seconds after the 15th special stage at Port Talbot with just 22 kilometres to cover in the final special to retain his world title by the slimmest of margins – just one point.
"It’s been an incredible season," said a delighted Loeb. "We made a good start then we lost everything and we came here one point behind Mikko. Finally we’ve done it and I’m really happy but Mikko has been extremely strong. I know it will be tough next year for sure.
"This has been one of my best title wins; the battle was so intense – going almost until the end of the last rally. It was incredible. We have had some highs and some lows this year but we finished with the victory. It’s an incredible feeling!" he added.
The GB success was Loeb’s seventh win of the season and the 54th of his career.
He finished the season on 93 points, just one point clear of Hirvonen, who climbed onto the podium in 11 out of the 12 races, the exception being the Rally of Argentina, which proved to be his undoing.
Four rally wins, five second places and two third places proved in the end to be insufficient to knock the incomparable Loeb off his pedestal.
"The bonnet pin was the last of our problems, but I really lost the rally yesterday when I couldn’t find the speed on those two stages," said Hirvonen.
"Now I need to go back to work and find more speed for next year. It was definitely the best year I’ve ever had, though.
"We’re really close now to his speed and that feels good. It’s been a great year, but of course a big disappointment at the end."
Third place in the final overall standings went to Spain’s Dani Sordo, but he was on 64 points – a long way adrift of Loeb and Hirvonen.