Loeb wins Rally of Ireland
Rally of Ireland: Citroen's Sebastien Loeb moved closer to a fourth consecutive world rally championship title today when he triumphed in the Rally Ireland, the penultimate race of the series.
Loeb finished 53.4 seconds ahead of Citroen team mate Dani Sordo and goes into Rally GB in two weeks on 110 points, six ahead of Marcus Gronholm, who crashed out of the race on Friday after starting with a four-point lead.
Citroen's 1-2 could not prevent Ford from clinching a second consecutive manufacturers' title, secured by Finn Mikko Hirvonen's steadily-achieved fourth place.
Loeb, hit with a 10-second penalty for a late start on Sunday, kept his composure on the treacherous course described by many of the drivers as the toughest of the year.
"The rally was really, really difficult, but we managed to finish it," Loeb told www.autosport.com.
"Ten points more for the championship is really important. That could change a lot of things for the championship.
"It was really great to win here, especially with Marcus scoring no points. I knew after the crash of Marcus, it all depended on me.
"This rally was one of the most difficult we've ever done, because it was very muddy but the car was really good. I had a really good feeling and I was not pushing so hard, just driving through with no risks."
Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala in a Stobart Ford finished third for his first WRC podium appearance.
There was good news for Dubliner Gareth MacHale as he finished eighth to secure championship points.
Result and driver standings after the final of the Ireland Rally
1. Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 3 hrs 01 min 39.200 secs
2. Daniel Sordo (Spain) Citroen + 00:53.400
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford 01:48.200
4. Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Ford 02:17.700
5. Petter Solberg (Norway) Subaru 02:55.800
6. Guy Wilks (Britain) Subaru 05:57.900
7. Matthew Wilson (Britain) Ford 10:04.900
8. Gareth Mac Hale (Ireland) Ford 11:08.300
9. Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Ford 13:08.200
10. Niall McShea (Britain) Subaru 16:32.100
1. Sebastien Loeb (France) 110 points
2. Marcus Gronholm (Finland) 104
3. Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) 89
4. Daniel Sordo (Spain) 61
5. Petter Solberg (Norway) 42
6. Henning Solberg (Norway) 34
7. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) 30
8. Chris Atkinson (Australia) 29
9. Francois Duval (Belgium) 12
10. Manfred Stohl (Austria) 12