Sebastien Loeb captured his sixth world title on Sunday by winning the Wales Rally, the final race of the season.
Although Mikko Hirvonen led by one point going into the race, the Frenchman finished the season one point ahead of the Finn after opening up a big lead on Friday in his Citroen and going into the final day 30 seconds in front. Hirvonen, driving a Ford Focus, finished second on the day, 1 minute and six seconds behind.
In the standings, Loeb finished with 93 points, Hirvonen had 92 and Dani Sordo of Spain, at the wheel of a Citroen, was third with 64.
“It’s been an incredible season,” Loeb said after his seventh victory in 12 races this year and 54th overall. “We made a good start (to the season) then we lost everything and we came here one point behind Mikko. Finally we’ve done it and I’m really happy but Mikko has been extremely strong. I know it will be tough next year for sure.
“This has been one of my best title wins; the battle was so intense – going almost until the end of the last rally. It was incredible. We have had some highs and some lows this year but we finished with the victory. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Hirvonen’s slim chance of catching Loeb virtually ended on the next to last stage when his hood flew up after a pin broke.
“Well, the bonnet pin was the last of our problems but I really lost the rally yesterday when I couldn’t find the speed on those two stages,” Hirvonen said.
“Now I need to go back to work and find more speed for next year. It was definitely the best year I’ve ever had, though. We’re really close now to his speed and that feels good. It’s been a great year, but of course a big disappointment at the end.”