Sebastien Loeb dominated all three days of the Turkish Rally, but the Frenchman was lucky to make the finish after his Citroën suffered a seized wheel-bearing on the final stage on Sunday.
Sebastien Loeb dominated all three days of the Turkish Rally, but the Frenchman was lucky to make the finish after his Citroën Xsara WRC suffered a seized right-rear wheel-bearing on the final stage on Sunday.
The Frenchman noticed what he thought was a grabbing brake disc, on the short, 5,6-kilometre repeat run through the Aspendos test, and then had a small wheel fire. He was able to crawl back to the final time control of the event on three wheels, though, after removing the tyre - a move that ensured he finished the rally on the road as well as the competitive stages.
Loeb's Turkish victory was his third win of the year and as his second on gravel. He also now leads the drivers' championship by a relatively comfortable nine points over Subaru's Petter Solberg.
"We got to the end of the stage, and everyone was congratulating us, but we knew that things were far from being over," the Frenchman said. "Luckily, we managed to sort the problem. It has been a tough rally and, although we've now got a good lead in the drivers' championship, we can't relax."
Two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm kept the pressure on the Frenchman by winning Sunday’s opening stage. But on the penultimate stage, the gearbox in the Finn’s Peugeot 307 WRC seized and Gronholm eventually had to settle for second place.
"It's been a tough event," said Gronholm. “The gearbox problem on the penultimate stage was a bit of a drama for us. Thanks to the advice of the engineers we were able to fix it rapidly, but we have been made to work hard for our second place here!"
Subaru’s Petter Solberg finished third. The Norwegian was 18 seconds behind Gronholm after the Finn suffered his gearbox glitch, but although Solberg topped the times, he was only 7,9 seconds faster than Gronholm - who also suffered a tyre failure mid-stage - and had to settle for third place overall.
The two points lost could prove to be vital in the drivers' championship title battle, as Solberg now lies just 10 points behind overall leader and rally winner Sebastien Loeb.
Loeb's teammate, Carlos Sainz finished fourth followed by Ford's Francois Duval and Subaru's young driver Mikko Hirvonen.
Solberg remains second on the points table behind Loeb and Ford Rallye Sport’s Markko Martin is third followed by Gronholm.