Loeb wins Rally of Argentina for third consecutive time
Finns occupy other podium places
The reigning World Champion Sebastien Loeb of France kept his Finnish rivals at bay in the Rally of Argentina over the weekend. The Citroën pilot secured victory in the event, which ended in Cordoba on Sunday, for the third time in a row. It was also his third straight win in this season's WRC races, following on from victories in Mexico and Portugal. Marcus Grönholm (Ford) of Finland came in second, 36.7 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Despite Loeb’s fourth victory this season, the Rally of Argentina was a decent showing for Finnish drivers. The Finnish Ford trio of Grönholm, Mikko Hirvonen, and Jari-Matti Latvala took places two, three, and four respectively.
Latvala’s fourth place equals his best-ever Rally World Championships result. Last year he came in fourth in the Rally of Britain. Latvala currently drives in Ford’s so-called second team.
Grönholm has topped the podium only once in Argentina, back in 2003. His result last year was a disappointing tenth. This time around, the Finn managed to stay within striking distance of Loeb until the beginning of the final day. In Sunday’s opening special stage the Citroen driver increased his lead by eight seconds, adding another 20 seconds to that in the next stage. In the second special stage, Grönholm compounded his difficulties by nearly driving off the road into a ditch.
"It was quite tough out there. I had difficulties keeping the car on track. I hit some rocks", commented Grönholm, who has been admirably consistent but has managed to win only one WRC race - the Rally of Sweden - so far this year. On three occasions he has taken the runner-up spot behind Loeb (twice) or Mikko Hirvonen.
In the drivers' table, Loeb extended his one-point lead over Grönholm to three (48-45). Hirvonen maintained his third position and now has 36 points. Ford head the manufacturers' standings.
Mikko Hirvonen’s path to a podium finish opened up when Norwegian Petter Solberg’s engine problems with his Subaru caused him to slip down from third place on special stage 17. Hirvonen then simply concentrated on bringing the car home in one piece.
Loeb is now the second man after the Finnish rallying legend Tommi Mäkinen to have won the Rally of Argentina three consecutive times. Mäkinen dominated the event in 1996-1998.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Time penalty dashes Grönholm´s chances in Rally of Portugal (2.4.2007)
Loeb wins Rally of Mexico, Grönholm and Hirvonen take second and third positions (12.3.2007)