Loeb clinches rally title

LAST month he was planting shrubs at Kyogle High but on Sunday Frenchman Sebastien Loeb clinched the World Rally Championship for the sixth straight year.

The Citroen driver won the Rally of Great Britain in Wales to take the title ahead of Ford's Mikko Hirvonen.

In the 12th and last race of the season, Loeb took advantage of Hirvonen's misfortune.

The flying Finn 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,” Loeb said.

“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.”

One of Loeb's lows this year must have been Repco Rally Australia.

Although the Frenchman won the race, he went home without the trophy after stewards imposed a one-minute penalty after finding his car's suspension parts did not comply with the records for the car.

It relegated Loeb to second place and saw Hirvonen awarded the bulk of the points instead.

However, Loeb's success in Wales was the 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.

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