"Fantastic" World Title is Loeb's

From Citroen Press [ 02/10/2005 ].
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"Wa shôri-sha…!" Seb and Daniel are the 2005 World Champions! By finishing 2nd in Rally Japan, the 2004 champs have succeeded in retaining their crown a further year. Meanwhile, François Duval and Sven Smeets put in a superb run to clinch 4th, enabling Citroën to extend its lead at the top of the Manufacturers' table by two further points.

On the menu of the third and final leg were two runs through Panke Nikorpet and Penke, both "narrow, twisty and very difficult stages," in Sébastien Loeb's own words, "perhaps the most technically demanding of the rally." They were also damp and slippery following the previous day's rain, but Seb took it cautiously over both and came out of this final hurdle unscathed. In the chasing pack of four drivers that was grouped within less than 13 seconds this morning, François posted a 3rd and a 2nd fastest time to conclude the event with an ideal balance of speed and caution.

There was naturally something of a party atmosphere at final service where Citroën's two crews performed the traditional kagami-wari ritual by joyfully smashing open a vat of sake with a mallet before answering the questions of the many journalists in attendance.

"Fantastic," kept repeating the beaming Seb. "We have reached the first peak of what has practically been a perfect season by sewing up our second Drivers' title with three rounds still to come. Each time out, Citroën has given us a competitive and reliable car. This triumph is also theirs and we now intend to do all we can to make sure the team keeps the Manufacturers' title. They really deserve it. I only needed to finish 3rd here, and I came home in 2nd place but that doesn't change much. In the circumstances I am happy for Marcus, Timo and Peugeot."

Now back to his usual self, François Duval was as pleased at the finish as his team-mate. "It's nice to be fully confident again. That was important in this weekend's very difficult and slippery conditions. Sven and I spent a lot of time before this rally thinking about Markko [Martin] and Michael [Park] and it took us a little time to get into full swing here. I am very happy for Seb and Daniel. They fully deserve their second world title. They have shown that they are capable of winning on all types of surface and how important hard work is. They will now have a free mind and we are feeling confident, so the end of the season looks very promising…"

For Guy Fréquelin, the most satisfying aspect of this result was… "that all season the team has succeeded in giving Seb and Daniel a car that has allowed them to win the World Championship again. I am pleased and proud to see how motivated the team is. Tactically, Seb was his usual masterful self this weekend. The other satisfying thing was the performance of François and Sven here. After some difficult moments, François now feels a lot more at ease. His performance was up to his natural talent. And that's a good thing because winning the Drivers' title is only half the job. We must now finish it by making sure we keep the Manufacturers' crown…"