HELSINKI (Reuters) - Citroen’s world champion Sebastien Loeb won Rally Finland for the second time in his career on Saturday to forge further ahead in the overall standings.
The French seven times world champion, who also won in Finland in 2008, was the first non-Nordic driver to win the rally twice.
Loeb beat Ford’s Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala by 8.1 seconds with Citroen’s other French driver, Sebastien Ogier, in third place ahead of Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen.
Loeb (171) is now 27 points clear of Hirvonen (144) after eight rounds with five remaining.
“I‘m really happy with my performance because I’ve cleaned the road for three days but won,” Loeb told the wrc.com website after his 66th win of his world championship career. “It was the perfect rally.”
Hirvonen, who lost more than two minutes on the first day when he hit a tree, won eight of the day’s 11 stages and took an additional three points by taking the final Lajaavuori ‘Power Stage’.
Loeb had started the final day as the first driver on the road, usually a handicap.
However damp conditions allowed him to keep his advantage, while Latvala moved up to second place ahead of Ogier after the Frenchman suffered a puncture.
“I just woke up a little too late for the rally,” said Latvala, last year’s winner.
”The humidity was so high last night that all the roads were damp. The moisture bound together the loose gravel and the cars ahead didn’t have to sweep the dirt off the surface as we expected.
“I was closing on the lead all the time but I ran out of kilometres. Just two more stages would have been enough,” added the Finn.
Both Minis retired with overheating problems caused by sand and dust in the cars’ radiators.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer and John Mehaffey; For Reuters sports blog Left Field go to: blogs.reuters.com/sport)