Loeb wins but Sordo excluded

Loeb wins but Sordo excludedFrom Citroen Press [ 03/09/2006 ].
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At the time when the sun is just rising in Western Europe, the land of the rising sun is applauding Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. Last year, the Franco-Monegasque pairing clinched a second consecutive world title in Japan. This year, after 27 stages, Seb and Daniel took their 27th career victory and claimed one of the few remaining records that had not yet been in their possession : the record for the total number of career wins, which they had held jointly with Spanish legend Carlos Sainz since the Rallye Deutschland. Now, this historic landmark is theirs alone.

 

This 27th victory was claimed after a sumptuous and nail-biting battle that lasted
throughout the entire three days of the rally. Its intensity, duration and uncertainty
will stick in the mind for many years to come. After their closely-fought
confrontation in Germany, Seb and Marcus Grönholm carried on as if nothing had
happened. « I pushed at 100%, and sometimes even more when it was
necessary, » said Seb. To try so hard on the fast, narrow and damp Japanese roads
clearly carried its risks. Seb though steered clear of trouble – even during the
thrilling final leg where he had to fend off a tooth-and-nail assault from Grönholm,
that saw the Frenchman win by just 5.6 seconds at the finish !

At the end, after a final lap of honour around the spectator superspecial, Seb was
thinking more of the battle than the record. He said: « How was that for close ? At
the start of the final leg, I thought that the eight points for second place would
have been a good result for the championship. Then we took the decision just to go
for it, to try everything. The fight was too good just to walk away and settle for
second. Mentally, that was an important turning point. But once we had decided on
that course of action, Daniel and I were only thinking about one thing. We had no
split times so it was just a question of going flat-out and driving as quickly as
possible on order to try and win. On the last stage, we took a few risks. The smell
of victory, and the potential joy of a team that once again performed faultlessly,
made it all worth it… »

Dani Sordo – a lifelong fan of Seb – was of course delighted. The young Spaniard
could have naturally hoped for an easier rally than the treacherous Japan in which
to get back onto the horse after his bad luck in Finland. Nonetheless, he did not put
a foot wrong to underline his humility and patience. He said : «The Rally Japan is
fun but very tricky. Given my inexperience, I just focussed on scoring the maximum
possible number of manufacturer points for Kronos. That was my job, and I did it to
the best of my abilities… » Dani was delayed by Luis Perez Companc’s accident on
the last stage, costing him his sixth place. The Kronos team have asked the event
organisers to look into the incident, and award Dani a notional time to reflect his
true pace. This request has been rejected.

In the manufacturers’ championship, Seb’s victory and Dani’s solid performance has
allowed the Kronos Citroen team to match the points haul of its closest rival and
maintain the series lead by 15 points. Team principal Marc van Dalen was
overjoyed. «I don’t know which emotion to put first, » he said. « My admiration for
our extraordinary World Champions Seb and Daniel, my deep joy, or my pride in
our team that has helped them to this historic 27th win. Not to mention my
gratitude for the faith that Citroen Sport showed in us, and my thanks to the
sponsors who have supported us throughout this fantastic adventure. What has
happened here today just gives us a burning desire to succeed in the rounds still to
come, and even more confidence… »

Update

On the penultimate stage of the rally, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were
stopped by the car of Luis Perez Companc blocking the road after he went
off. They lost their sixth position overall in the incident.
The Kronos team asked the Race Control that their case should be studied
and a notional time be given. This request was rejected.
Furthermore, the Stewards watched the on-board cameras on that stage
and noticed the Spanish crew did not correctly refasten their seat belts after
returning to their car.
In consequence, the Stewards have decided to exclude Dani Sordo and
Marc Marti from the final classification of the Rally Japan 2006.
Kronos Total Citroën World Rally team only scores ten points in the
Manufacturers’ championship for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena’s win.