Neste Oil Rally Finland 2011

Starting in the unenviable position of first-on-the-road on all three days of the high-speed gravel event, Sabastien Loeb, driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, battled to his 66th victory at world championship level alongside co-driver Daniel Elena. In doing so he becomes the first non-Nordic driver to win the event twice.
With some stages badly rutted for the afternoon of the final loop, Loeb faced a tough fight to maintain his lead. However, when Ogier picked up a front-left puncture on stage 17, Loeb was almost in the clear despite Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala cutting his advantage to less than 10 seconds in the closing stages.
Latvala began the final day 2.6s behind leader Loeb in third position but his efforts to move ahead were hampered by a lack of traction at the rear of his car. Adjustments to the rear differential preload at midday service solved the problem and the Finn was able to mount a late attack, taking second place from Ogier on stage 18.
"It was a tough weekend and I woke up a little bit too late," said the works Fiesta RS WRC driver. "Of course it's a disappointment not to win but it's been a great rally."
Ogier too could barely hide his disappointment at the finish having been convinced that he could take his first win in Finland. "Of course I have not given up but this is not a good result for the championship," he said. "With my road position today I should play for the victory but it was finished after the puncture."
Mikko Hirvonen started the first of Saturday's 11 stages in sixth position and almost one minute behind fourth-placed Petter Solberg. But a combination of Hirvonen's pace - he was fastest on eight stages today - and differential problems for a lacklustre Solberg allowed the Finn to snatch fourth in the second factory Fiesta.
While Hirvonen, who hails from Jyvaskyla, was frustrated not to have challenged for first place following his stage one off, he was fastest on the Power Stage to bag three bonus points.
Solberg was a disconsolate fifth with Mads Ostberg impressing at the wheel of his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta. Although the Ostberg bid to demote his fellow Norwegian Solberg for fifth ultimately failed, he nevertheless set several strong stage times.
It was a great weekend's work for a driver who's never been happy on this rally and on his current form, only a brave man would bet against Loeb adding an eighth world title to his already peerless record among the elite of world rallying.
After Finland, Loeb's 2011 Championship standing is now 171 to Hirvonen's 144, Ogier's 140 and a distant Latvala on 96. Rally Germany is the next round of the championship on 18th/21st August and ominously for his fellow competitors, Loeb really likes this event!

1st August, 2011