Loeb extends WRC title lead in NZ

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IOL mot jun26 wrc a Getty Images Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena celebrate their success during Day Three of the WRC Rally New Zealand.

Frenchman Sebastien Loeb won the Rally New Zealand Sunday to extend his lead at the top of the World Rally Championship to 38 points.

The eight-time defending world champion finished 29.6 seconds ahead of Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen to secure his third Rally New Zealand title after winning in 2005 and 2008.

It was Loeb's fifth win in seven rounds of this year's championship and the 72nd of a stellar career in which he has monopolised the world title for the past eight years in a row.

Loeb entered the final day with a 6.4 second lead over Hirvonen and the Citroen drivers were under orders to take no risks in the wet conditions to ensure a one-two finish for the French car manufacturer.

“It's been a long weekend and my driving has not been perfect,” Loeb said.

“We made a few mistakes in the closing power stage, when we were pushing too hard but the most important thing is that we have won.”

Norway's Petter Solberg came third in the fastest of the Fords and said he could have finished higher if not for a mistake in tyre selection on the opening day Friday.

“We came here to win but a third place is still good so we must be happy with that,” he said. “The team and the car is fantastic, but we just need to keep going and hopefully one day soon a win will follow.”

Solberg's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala qualified fastest but had to settle for seventh after crashing into a fence on day one.

The major drama on the final day came when Ott Tanak of Estonia rolled his Ford during the 22nd special stage. He was unharmed but had to retire from the race. -AFP

RESULTS - RALLY NEW ZEALAND

1. Sebastien Loeb (FRA/Citroen DS3) 4h04:51

2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN/Citroen DS3) +29.6s

3. Petter Solberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta) +1m36.4

4. Evgeny Novikov (RUS/Ford Fiesta) +2:13.6

5. Thierry Neuville (BEL/Citroen DS3) +2:42.4

6. Dani Sordo (ESP/Mini) +3:03.1

7. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN/Ford Fiesta) +4:52.9

8. Armindo Araujo (POR/Mini) +9:36.4

9. Ken Block (USA/Ford Fiesta) +10:30.3

10. Manfred Stohl (AUT/Ford Fiesta) +11:26.3.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

1. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) - 145 points

2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) - 107

3. Petter Solberg (NOR) - 90

4. Mads Ostberg (NOR) - 80

5. Evgeny Novikov (RUS) - 55

6. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) - 54

7. Martin Prokop (CZE) - 36

8. Thierry Neuville (BEL) - 32

9. Dani Sordo (ESP) - 29

10. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) - 23



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