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Loeb reigns in WRC Spain finale

Motorsport

Nine-times world champion Sebastien Loeb ended the 2012 season with a ninth victory when he won the Rally of Spain for the eighth time in his career on Sunday in his final outing as a full-time driver.

The French Citroen driver, who will not race all of next season's rallies and will take part in the World Touring Car Championship from 2014, finished seven seconds ahead of Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala with Loeb's team mate Mikko Hirvonen one minute 39.8 seconds further back in third.

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SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 09:  Sebastien Loeb of France and Daniel Elena of Monaco compete in their Citroen Total WRT Citroen DS3 WRC during Day One of the WRC Spain on November 09, 2012 in Salou, Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)Race winner Sebastien Loeb. Image: AP.SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 11:  Sebastien Loeb of France and Daniel Elena of Monaco celebrate their victory  during Day Three of the WRC Spain on November 11, 2012 in Salou ,Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 08:  Mikko Hirvonen of Finland and Jarmo Lehtinen of Finland compete in their Citroen Total WRT Citroen DS3 WRC during the Shakedown of the WRC Spain on November 08, 2012 in Salou , Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 11:  Evgeny Novikov of Russia and Ilka Minor of Austria  compete in their Evgeny Novikov Ford Fiesta RS WRC during Day Three of the WRC Spain on November 11, 2012 in Salou ,Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)Jari Matti Latvala. Image: AP.SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 08:  Daniel Sordo of Spain and Carlos Del Barrio of Spain compete in their Prodrive WRC Team Mini John Cooper Works WRC during the Shakedown of the WRC Spain on November 08, 2012 in Salou , Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)SALOU, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 11:  Mads Ostberg of Norway and Jonas Andersson of Sweden  compete in their Adapta WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC during Day Three of the WRC Spain on November 11, 2012 in Salou ,Spain.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

Loeb had already clinched a ninth straight title at the Rally of France in October.

“For sure I really wanted to win this rally,” Loeb said on the world rally championship website (www.wrc.com) after three days of rain-affected action.

TRICKY START

“We were really struggling in the start because it was really tricky on the first day,” he added in reference to the mainly gravel early sections of the race in the Tarragona region of eastern Spain.

“On the tarmac I was able to take the lead but today was not easy because we had some strange tyre choice and Jari-Matti was pushing very hard and getting closer.”

Loeb, 38, always said he wanted to quit rallying at his peak and Finn Hirvonen will become Citroen's main driver next term when the season starts in Monte Carlo on Jan. 15 2013.

Loeb's victory in Spain was the 76th of his career. -Reuters

RESULTS - TOP 10

1. Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 4:14:29.100

2. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford +00:07.000

3. Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen +01:46.800

4. Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +01:56.400

5. Jarkko Nikara (Finland) Mini +16:07.900

6. Craig Breen (Ireland) Ford +18:10.400

7. Chris Atkinson (Australia) Mini +19:14.700

8. Per-Gunnar Andersson (Sweden) Proton +20:16.100

9. Daniel Sordo (Spain) Mini +25:40.600

10. Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford +25:46.600

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