Sébastien Loeb claimed his first WRC victory in more than five years in a drama-filled finale at the RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally de España on Sunday afternoon.

The nine-time world champion, making his final guest appearance of the season with Citroën Racing, edged defending title holder Sébastien Ogier by 2.9 seconds to conclude the four-day mixed surface event.

Ogier’s consolation was that he regained the championship lead by three points from Thierry Neuville with one round remaining. The Belgian was relegated from third to fourth, and missed out on crucial bonus points, after hitting a stone near the finish.

Loeb, who retired from full-time competition in 2012, last stood on the winners’ podium in Argentina in 2013.

He was third overnight but charged into the lead by winning Sunday’s opening two speed tests as an inspired tire choice reaped rewards.

Ogier finished second, moving into the championship lead

The asphalt roads dried quickly after overnight rain and the 44-year-old was the only front-running driver to gamble on Michelin’s hard compound tires, which provided better grip than the softer option favored by his rivals.

Loeb threw away vital seconds with a spin in the penultimate test to allow Ogier to close in his Ford Fiesta. He held on through the final 14.50km test for his ninth Spanish win.

“The information we had from the weather team was right. The roads were drying and I knew if I used hard tires in these conditions I could be fast,” he said. “To win after almost six years is incredible, but to do so in a battle like this, where you only discover after the finish line that you have won, is amazing. I never believed I would win again.”

Tire choice errors early in the event cost Ogier; but this season’s remarkable title fight swung back in his favor when Neuville hit a stone close to the finish.

The impact broke his Hyundai i20’s right rear wheel and allowed Elfyn Evans, teammate to Ogier, to snatch third and aid his colleague’s title bid. Evans ended 0.5sec clear of Neuville.

Neuville finished fourth, and is three points behind the drivers' championship

Spain’s Dani Sordo was a further 1.6 seconds behind in fifth, while early leader Ott Tänak recovered to sixth after Saturday’s puncture. The Estonian is 23 points behind Ogier and with a maximum 30 available at the last round, his hopes hang by a thread.

Esapekka Lappi finished seventh ahead of Toyota Yaris teammate and overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn remained second until he hit a barrier in the penultimate stage, punctured his front left tire and dropped nearly 50 seconds. Craig Breen and Andreas Mikkelsen rounded the top 10.

The championship showdown takes place at Kennards Hire Rally Australia. The gravel event is based in Coffs Harbor November 15-18.

Cla#Driver/CodriverCarClass4515PenaltyTotal TimeGapInterval
110
Sébastien Loeb
Citroën C3 WRCRC13:12'08.0 3:12'08.0
Daniel Elena
21
Sébastien Ogier
Ford Fiesta WRCRC13:12'10.9 3:12'10.92.92.9
Julien Ingrassia
32
Elfyn Evans
Ford Fiesta WRCRC13:12'24.5 3:12'24.516.513.6
Daniel Barritt
45
Thierry Neuville
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCRC13:12'25.0 3:12'25.0170.5
Nicolas Gilsoul
56
Dani Sordo
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCRC13:12'26.6 3:12'26.618.61.6
Carlos del Barrio
68
Ott Tanak
Toyota Yaris WRCRC13:13'11.9 3:13'11.91'03.945.3
Martin Jarveoja
79
Esapekka Lappi
Toyota Yaris WRCRC13:13'24.6 3:13'24.61'16.612.7
Janne Ferm
87
Jari-Matti Latvala
Toyota Yaris WRCRC13:13'34.4 3:13'34.41'26.49.8
Miikka Anttila
911
Craig Breen
Citroën C3 WRCRC13:14'15.0 3:14'15.02'07.040.6
Scott Martin
104
Andreas Mikkelsen
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCRC13:14'56.2 3:14'56.22'48.241.2
Anders Jäger
113
Mikko Markkula
Ford Fiesta WRCRC13:16'00.0 3:16'00.03'52.01'03.8
Teemu Suninen
1232Jonne HalttunenŠkoda Fabia R5RC23:20'47.6 3:20'47.68'39.64'47.6
Kalle Rovanperä
1331Jan Kopecky Škoda Fabia R5RC23:20'56.1 3:20'56.18'48.18.5
Pavel Dresler
1449
Veronica Engan
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5RC23:22'24.2 3:22'24.210'16.21'28.1
Petter Solberg
1540Maciek Szczepaniak Ford Fiesta R5RC23:22'47.2 3:22'47.210'39.223
Kajetan Kajetanowicz
1644
Marc Marti
Ford Fiesta R5RC23:23'46.9 3:23'46.911'38.959.7
Nil Solans
1750
Henning Solberg
Škoda Fabia R5RC23:25'35.0 3:25'35.013'27.01'48.1
Ilka Minor
1838
Vincent Landais
Hyundai i20 R5RC23:25'41.1 3:25'41.113'33.16.1
Pierre-Louis Loubet
1934Simone Scattolin Škoda Fabia R5RC23:32'59.6 3:32'59.620'51.67'18.5
Fabio Andolfi
2036
Ole Christian Veiby
Citroën C3 R5RC23:33'20.5 3:33'20.521'12.520.9
Stig Rune Skjaermoen
2112
Khalid Al-Qassimi
Citroën C3 WRCRC13:33'36.6 3:33'36.621'28.616.1
Chris Patterson
2241Simone Tempestini Citroën C3 R5RC23:37'42.9 3:37'42.925'34.94'06.3
Sergiu Itu
2335
Jari Huttunen
Hyundai i20 R5RC23:41'56.7 3:41'56.729'48.74'13.8
Antti Linnaketo
2439
Marko Salminen
Ford Fiesta R5RC23:38'09.94'003:42'09.930'01.913.2
Takamoto Katsuta
2581Lluis PujolarŠkoda Fabia R5RC23:43'27.6 3:43'27.631'19.61'17.7
Albert Orriols
2645
Elliott Edmondson
Škoda Fabia R5RC23:44'28.3 3:44'28.332'20.31'00.7
Rhys Yates
2794Jan SolansPeugeot 208 R2RC43:45'04.6 3:45'04.632'56.636.3
Mauro Barreiro
2892Jean-Baptiste FranceschiFord Fiesta R2TRC43:45'07.1 3:45'07.132'59.12.5
Romain Courbon
2995Manel MuñozPeugeot 208 R2RC43:45'40.6'103:45'50.633'42.643.5
Josep Bassas
3083
Jean-Michel Raoux
Citroën DS3 WRCRC13:47'12.4'103:47'22.435'14.41'31.8
Laurent Magat
3152Borja Rozada Citroën C3 R5RC23:51'24.61'203:52'44.640'36.65'22.2
Pepe Lopez
3237
Stéphane Lefebvre
Citroën C3 R5RC23:56'28.9 3:56'28.944'20.93'44.3
Gabin Moreau
3333
Lukasz Pieniazek
Škoda Fabia R5RC23:57'05.9 3:57'05.944'57.937
Przemysław Mazur
3462
Enrico Brazzoli
Peugeot 208 R2RC43:57'58.3'203:58'18.346'10.31'12.4
Luca Beltrame
3547
Eric Camilli
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5RC24:01'26.3 4:01'26.349'18.33'08.0
Benjamin Veillas
3697José MuradoPeugeot 208 R2RC44:01'34.4 4:01'34.449'26.48.1
Roberto Blach
37113Alexis RomeroPeugeot 208 R2RC44:01'58.6 4:01'58.649'50.624.2
MartÌn Domínguez Cedrés
3861
Taisko Lario
Peugeot 208 R2RC44:02'36.3 4:02'36.350'28.337.7
Tatu Hämäläinen
39108Laureano Grigera Peugeot 208 R2RC44:05'58.6 4:05'58.653'50.63'22.3
Luciano Bonomi
4093Phil Hall Ford Fiesta R2TRC44:07'49.3 4:07'49.355'41.31'50.7
Tom Williams
41107Nabila TejparPeugeot 208 R2RC44:13'26.5'104:13'36.51:01'28.55'47.2
Max Freeman
4284
Michael Joseph Morrissey
Ford Fiesta R5RC24:13'03.91'004:14'03.91:01'55.927.4
Eamonn Boland
4386Cindy VerbaetenMitsubishi Lancer EVO XRC24:15'09.5 4:15'09.51:03'01.51'05.6
Henk Bakkenes
44115Philippe Gomez Peugeot 208 R2RC44:15'36.6 4:15'36.61:03'28.627.1
Gilles Combe
45117Marco DemontisFord Fiesta R2TRC44:20'12.4 4:20'12.41:08'04.44'35.8
Paolo Raviglione
4685Fabio Salis Peugeot 208 T16RC24:21'11.0'104:21'21.01:09'13.01'08.6
Fabrizio Arengi
47114Charles-Antoine DePeugeot 208 R2RC44:28'22.31'104:29'32.31:17'24.38'11.3
Luc Gellusseau
4863Louise Cook Ford Fiesta R2TRC44:29'49.82'304:32'19.81:20'11.82'47.5
Stefan Davis
4990Mariano ParésFord Fiesta N5 4:40'00.2 4:40'00.21:27'52.27'40.4
Pere Requena
5046
Fabian Cretu
Škoda Fabia R5RC24:40'32.3 4:40'32.31:28'24.332.1
Marco Bulacia
51118Anna TalladaFord Fiesta R2TRC44:45'42.6 4:45'42.61:33'34.65'10.3
Laura Camps
52112Alberto CotanoPeugeot 208 R2RC44:56'16.8 4:56'16.81:44'08.810'34.2
Andreu Pascual
5387Sara FernándezPeugeot 308 N5 5:39'41.5 5:39'41.52:27'33.543'24.7
Efrén Llarena
116Carlo Covi Peugeot 208 R2RC4
Simone Angi
48José AntonioHyundai i20 R5RC2
Candido Carrera
110Xavier CarullaPeugeot 208 R2RC4
Abel Torrelles
43Alessandro Gelsomino Ford Fiesta WRCRC1
Ken Block
51Anthony Gorguilo Škoda Fabia R5RC2
Sylvain Michel
96José AntonioPeugeot 208 R2RC4
José Maria
103Luis Marques Peugeot 208 R2RC4
Ricardo Sousa

Source: Autoweek

October 28, 2018