Loeb Wins If Penalty is Dropped

From Adrian Kirk-Burnnand [ 21/01/2002 ].
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A super drive from Sebastien Loeb could be ruined if a penalty for changing tyres in a restricted area is added to his time. It would be a big pity if the penalty is confirmed, however, going light on the rules (no matter how small the gain from his indiscretion) just promotes misunderstanding, sour words and future rule infringements. However, Sebastien has been lucky (in some respects) that Carlos Sainz dropped the pace a little and is just over 1 second over 2 minutes behind the Frenchman without the penalty. If the penalty stands, Loeb will claim second, and retain six driver's points. Makinen on the other hand...

Makinen, has surely etched his name as one of the greats in people's minds after his efforts this weekend. Few drivers could hop into a new car and perform so admibrably!

And infact if Loeb's penalty is added to his time, Makinen's win will take him to the top of the Most Rally Wins table, an amazing acheivment considering the time and how close so many drivers have been to grabbing this glory.

Furthering the penalty problem is that it seems after the penalty Tommi Makinen backed off. The team actually fitted a different ECU which would put less pressure on the engine to make sure he finished.

The "suspension" of the penalty is perhaps the biggest issue because it has caused confusion amongst all concerned; It will surely cause confusion to all the possible new viewers through the new television slots worldwide.

David Lapworth of Subaru has commented: "Our drivers were very cautious on the second stage today, but quicker than intended on the first. Have you ever heard of the Stewards decision being reversed? We'd be crazy to take the risk (and keep the drivers going flat out)." It was interesting to see that Loeb was the man with the champagne on the podium!

And from a man with normally strong opinions, Peugeot's Corrado Provera, comes this on the issue : "It is all the more stupid that there was no intention to cheat from Citroën. This is simply called a Screwup with a capital S. It can happen to anybody, but on the other hand there are rules."

Amazingly Loeb has said he's not bothered if the penalty is enforced : "I'm not bothered about the penalty... I know that I have been quickest on time and I have proven my speed. Everyone who has been watching this has seen this.... I'm not doing the full championship; if Tommi wants 10 points he can have them. This is a technical matter that is outside the competition."

However, forgetting all of what will hopefully be sorted quickly over the next day or so, the rally was a truely classic Monte Carlo, great from the outset and tight to the end - it was highly enjoyable to follow.

The top 10 reads like this (prior to confirmation) :

1. Loeb
2.Makinen +45.9s
3. Sainz +2m01.6s
4. C McRae +2m43.9s
5. Gronholm +2m53.3s
6. Solberg +3m15.5s
7. Panizzi +4m06.0s
8. Burns +5m02.3s
9. Delecour +6m21.6s
10. Gardemeister +7m28.3s.

Stay tuned for quotes, more photos, championship points and more news soon.