Sebastien Loeb cruised to a comfortable sixth victory on the Spanish round of the World Rally Championship, having led since the beginning of the event.
The Frenchman's only threat came from compatriot Sebastien Ogier, who ruled himself out of contention by hitting a barrier on Saturday morning.
Having backed off on the final afternoon, Loeb finished 35.3 seconds ahead of privateer Citroen driver Petter Solberg. “It was another very good result for us in Spain and I'm very happy,” said Loeb. “We had no pressure for the championship on this event, so we were just able to drive as we wanted. We pushed hard on the gravel on Friday and from then it was a little bit easier to control the advantage.”
Solberg held of the challenge of Loeb's works Citroen teammate Dani Sordo on the final day. The Spaniard had fought back from a poor first day to start the final leg 16.9 seconds down on Solberg. He won the opening stage of the day to trim that gap to 12 seconds, before reducing it a further 1.2 seconds by midday. Solberg held on though to take second by 5.8 seconds.
“I went really sideways on the final stage, maybe too much,” said Solberg. “I wasn't sure if I could do it. This means so much to me to beat the factory cars because our car really isn't the same.”
Sordo said: “I think I was trying a bit too much, but today has been a really nice day. I'm very grateful to all the spectators: I got a lot of support and so this third place is for everyone who came out to watch.”
Having run second early on Friday, Jari-Matti Latvala settled for fourth place today ahead of Ford teammate Mikko Hirvonen, who suffered a turbo problem on Saturday. Latvala was pleased with his improved performance on asphalt. “I'm finally finding the relaxed feeling that I need on asphalt,” he said. “Since I drove at the Nurburgring 24 Hours earlier this year I've felt a lot more confident on sealed surfaces.”
Matthew Wilson finished a lonely sixth, with his nearest challenger Frigyes Turan crashing out of seventh on SS13. Khalid Al Qassimi held on to finish seventh in the third BP Ford machine, just ahead of Henning Solberg in his Super 2000 Fiesta. Ken Block finished ninth to score his first WRC points, ahead of Ogier, who recovered from his incident to salvage a point.
In the Junior World Rally Championship, title contender Hans Weijs took the lead of the class when Yeray Lemes broke a wheel on Sunday morning. However, a crankshaft issue on the penultimate stage robbed him of not only the class lead to Lemes, but also the title, as Aaron Burkart recovered to fourth via superally after going off the road on Saturday.