Duma Posted November 2, 2008 Share Posted November 2, 2008 Citroen's Sebastien Loeb clinched a record fifth world title in a row after surviving a late spin to finish third in the Japan Rally. RALLY - Sebastian Loeb 2008 historischer WM-Triumph - 0 More Stories * Rally Gallery * Final Standings Rival Mikko Hirvonen led Jari-Matti Latvala in a Ford one-two but it was not enough to keep the title race alive. "It's incredible," Loeb said. "But that was a terrible rally -- it couldn't have been more tricky. There was a lot of pressure but now it's a great moment. It's perfect. "I'm so relieved this weekend is over now. Last year (co-driver) Daniel (Elena) and I equalled the record with four wins, so being the only ones with five is nice." A spin on the penultimate stage almost cost the Frenchman third place and his hopes of glory in Sapporo as torrential rain made conditions treacherous. "I spun a few hundred metres before the finish," said Loeb. "I was doing about 50kph in a straight line and then 'Bang!' -- it just went. "We had to reverse and get going again. I lost the electronic differential control because of the water everywhere." However, Loeb recovered to finish more than a minute clear of Subaru's Chris Atkinson in fourth. Hirvonen won by 31.1 seconds from fellow Finn Latvala but paid tribute to the 34-year-old Loeb for another dominant season. "He definitely deserved it," said Hirvonen. "Everybody can see he won 10 rallies this year. I did all I could. I will just have to try again next year." Loeb had wanted to secure the title in Japan in order to drive flat-out in the last race in Britain later this month in a bid to break his own record of 10 wins in a season. "I wanted to go to Wales with a totally free mind," he said. "That made the weekend very long and very frustrating, and I have to say that it wasn't much fun. "We did what we could to keep any thoughts about the championship out of our minds but it wasn't easy. The title just seemed to loom larger after every stage - it was well worth the wait in the end." Friday's first leg began frustratingly for Loeb until a high-speed crash involving Ford driver Francois Duval gave the Frenchman third spot. Duval's accident left his co-driver Patrick Pivato badly injured and needing surgery for a fractured pelvis and tibia, and caused the afternoon's stages to be cancelled. Loeb, dubbed the "Michael Schumacher of rallying" for his stranglehold over the sport, has won a record 46 races during a career that began in 1999. "We have achieved half the target we set ourselves this season," said Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel. "Now we must refocus with a view to wrapping up the manufacturers' title. Factbox on Sebastien Loeb: * The 34-year-old Frenchman (born February 26, 1974) surpasses retired Finnish great Tommi Makinen as the only driver to win five titles in a row. Makinen was champion from 1996-99. * Loeb, with co-driver Daniel Elena, has won a record 46 rallies in a world championship career that started in 1999. All his wins have been with Citroen. * A gymnast before taking up rally driving, he is only the second Frenchman to have won the world title after 1994 champion Didier Auriol. * Loeb broke his arm in a mountain-biking accident with four races left and while 35 points ahead of the field in the 2006 season. He won that title when his nearest rival, Marcus Gronholm, could only finish fifth in Australia. * The Citroen driver has been dubbed the 'Michael Schumacher of Rallying', his stranglehold on the sport comparable to that exerted by the German seven-times world champion at his peak in Formula One. * Has already matched his 10 victories in 2005 this season with one race remaining. He has won at least three races in every year since 2003, when he almost took the title in his first full season. * He took his first win in Germany in 2002 after joining Citroen as French rally champion in 2001. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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