Latvala tames asphalt surface as Sébastien Loeb makes it nine in Germany
The winner of the Rallye Deutschland, the ninth round of the 2012 World Rally Championship season, was never ereally going to be in much doubt.
Apart from a blip last year when Sébastien Ogier took the honours, France's Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) has won on the last eight occasions when the rally has been held.
Loeb duly won at a canter, holding off Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) by two minutes, with Mikko Hirvonen, Loeb's Citroen teammate, back in third, a further 30 seconds adrift.
On the positive side, from the Finnish perspective, was the fact that this was Latvala's best-ever performance in a rally driven on asphalt.
The Finns are better known as gravel specialists, and do not tend to give of their best on the metalled surface.
Hirvonen, too, equalled his best placing in Germany, where he was fourth last year, when still driving for Ford.
Loeb's victory, his seventh of the current season, pushed him up to 199 points, a lead of 54 over Mikko Hirvonen. Latvala's runner-up spot keeps him in 5th place with 87 points.
The 2012 WRC title could be decided fairly soon, for Loeb's lead over his nearest rival is equivalent to two wins (25 points to the winner), and there are only four events left in the season. A ninth successive Drivers' Championship beckons.
The next rally, raced on gravel, will be in Wales in mid-September.
It is getting hard to keep count, but Rallye Deutschland was Sébastien Loeb's 74th WRC victory.
He leads the all-time tables by a dizzying margin, for Marcus Grönholm of Finland, now retired from the sport, comes next with just 30 career wins.
Grönholm won the title twice, while two other Finns - Tommi Mäkinen (24 wins) and Juha Kankkunen (23 wins) are both four-time champions.
There was a time in the 1990s and into the new millennium when they dominated the sport, but not to anything like the extent that Loeb has ruled over rallying since 2004.
He has even captured the formerly impregnable fortress of the Neste Rally Finland on three occasions, beating the locals on their own favoured gravel surface.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Loeb takes Neste Oil Rally Finland for a third time (6.8.2012)
Jari-Matti Latvala (Wikipedia)