RALLY SPAIN: SEBASTIAN LOEB SET TO TAKE SURPRISE WIN
Sebastian Loeb, the nine-time world champion is set to take a surprise win after a superb start to the final leg of the rally, overtaking Ogier, Neuville and Latvala.
On the opening stage Sebastian Ogier took the win to start his campaign to re-take the championship lead from Thierry Neuville with just Australia after this, however once Friday began it was the Toyota's of Ott Tanäk and Jari-Matti Latvala who were the fastest, with the Estonian, who needed to win the rally in order to stay in the championship fight creating a substantial lead. In fact, by the end of Friday after seven stages, the six-time rally winner had nearly a thirty second lead.
Meanwhile behind him, his rivals could not have been closer. Elfyn Evans of M-Sport was having a good run on Friday, not winning a stage but claiming consistent results to earn him third place by the end of the first day.
It was the Spaniard Dani Sordo though who was the best of the rest, also claiming consistent results to take second place heading into the long Saturday. He was able to pick up a stage win on SS5.
The main two championship title contenders were a little off form on Friday, with Ogier ending the day in seventh place, nearly fourty seconds back from Tänak with Thierry Neuville all the way down in ninth place behind Craig Breen of Citroen.
Sebastian Loeb was proving to still have the talent that won him nine world titles, finishing the day in fourth place, with Latvala fifth and Mikkelsen sixth. By the end of the day it was still a close rally, with the top nine separated by less than sixty seconds.
On Saturday Ott Tänak continued where he left off, winning the first stage of the day by four seconds to his team-mate Latvala, however on Stage 10 the Estonian suffered a puncture, costing him nearly two minutes and dropped him down to ninth place, effectively ending his championship hopes. This left Dani Sordo to take a slender lead over Jari-Matti Latvala in second place, with the top five now covered by thirteen seconds.
Until the end of the day everyone was giving it their all, all sensing the oppotunity of a Rally win. At the end of the day, Latvala was able to hold on to his lead, albeit 4.7 seconds over Ogier, with Loeb in third, Evans in fourth, Neuville fifth and Sordo sixth, all separated by sixteen seconds. Ott Tänak did his best by continuing to fight and was a minute down in eighth place.
On Sunday one man was just in a class of his own, something that we all knew about which happened around a decade ago. That man was Sebastian Loeb.
The Frenchman won Stage 15 (the opening stage of the day) by a whopping six seconds despite its short distance, immediately taking the lead from Latvala by 2.7 seconds, with Ogier only a few more stages behind.
Stage 16 and Loeb takes it again, his fourth stage win of the Rally, this time by 'only' 2.7 seconds, with Tänak in second and now Neuville beginning to get into form. The nine-time WRC champion now had a seven second lead over Latvala, with Ogier ten seconds behind, and now championship leader Thierry Neuville was in fourth place, only 3.5 seconds behind Ogier with two stages to go. What a battle. Sordo was fifth, Evans sixth, and Tänak now into seventh place.