Belfast Telegraph

Legend Loeb set to scoop ninth World title

By Sammy Hamill

No-one, not even Michael Schumacher, comes close to matching the motorsport record of Sebastien Loeb.

This weekend the French phenomenon stands on the verge of an incredible ninth World rally title in a row after 74 victories and 853 stage wins.

Loeb is a man apart, a winning machine who has re-written the record books by more than doubling the number of wins of other all-time greats like Marcus Gronholm (30), Carlos Sainz (26) and Colin McRae (25).

He starts the British round of the World championship, Wales Rally GB, with a 54-point lead over Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, making it just mathematically possible, but unlikely, that he won’t be champion again.

Loeb has not dominated the Welsh forests in the manner in which he has ruled other rallies but insists he is “not obsessed” with winning in Wales — meaning he may well measure risk against reward, and perhaps delay his crowning ceremony until next month’s Rally France.

It has been a lean year for the Ford duo of Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, who is co-driven by Ulsterman Chris Patterson, but both must see this as an opportunity to ease some of the hurt which, at times, has been self-inflicted this season.

Meanwhile, two of Ireland’s brightest young drivers, Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher, go head-to-head in the Super 2000 World championship division of the rally, both driving M-Sport Ford Fiestas.

Breen led the championship until his co-driver Gareth Roberts was killed in an accident in Sicily in early June and the 23-year-old Waterford driver is now attempting to overcome the tragedy and re-build his career.

Fisher is taking time out from his challenge for the WRC Academy title which Breen won last year and steps up to the S2000 category with a wild card entry.

There is a ceremonial start in Llandudno tonight before the action begins tomorrow morning.

Belfast Telegraph

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