Seventh heaven for Loeb


STRASBOURG, October 3- Sebastien Loeb won his seventh world rally title on Sunday after leading from start to finish in the Rally of France.Loeb guaranteed overall victory for the seventh straight year with two legs of the season remaining after winning six of the 11 rallies of the 2010 season – he also managed at least a top three finish in ten of those events.

The champion was able to savour his win on home soil as he hails from Haguenau, just outside Strasbourg in eastern France near the German border, the Citroen C4 driver leading home a 1-2-3 for the marque ahead of Spaniard Dani Sordo and Norway’s Petter Solberg for a 60th career success.

"It’s just fantastic to win here," said Loeb after triumphing with more than half a minute to spare.

"I knew I could do it but it was an extremely tough race and I had to believe right through to the finish line."

There, he was mobbed by home admirers.

"I didn’t think there would be so many people and that the rally would take on such a dimension," he said, seemingly somewhat startled by his hero’s welcome.

"I had a good feeling," he had noted after putting half a minute between himself and the chasing pack on the opening day.

And there was no let-up as he streaked to the finish once he had negotiated the 24.7-kilometre Bitche Camp stage with a margin of 37.8sec.

"It was very fast and slippery [in Bitche Camp] with mud in places so I took no risk," Loeb explained.

Sordo meanwhile was suffering after a water hose in his car became detached, dogging his already forlorn hopes of closing the gap.

Loeb did not look back all season once he had upped his game having started the campaign by placing second, 40sec behind Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford in the opening race.

Three wins on a roll in Mexico, Jordan and Turkey lifted him well clear of the pack and even though Finn Jari-Mati Latvala then won in New Zealand and young Frenchman Sebastien Ogier scored a maiden success in Portugal, Loeb stayed in the hunt coming third and second on those occasions, 38 points clear of Ogier.

A fourth win followed in Bulgaria before Latvala won on his home stamping ground.

Loeb all but wrapped things up with a win in the Rally of Germany, after which he had extended his lead over Ogier to 58 points and could afford to miss his only podium in Japan as he could only trail in fifth.

Loeb, who dominated the weekend proceedings in front of his adoring fans in winning seven of the opening 11 special stages, can now enjoy two victory laps in the final races of the season in Spain starting October 22 and Britain, from November 12.