Belfast Telegraph

Legend Loeb turns back time to win again

 

By Sammy Hamill

It was like he had never been away. Sebastien Loeb didn't just turn back the clock, he rolled back the years to win Rally Catalunya, an astonishing comeback by the nine-times World champion who officially retired at the end of 2012.

It was the French master's 80th WRC victory, but all of six years since his last, and came on a final day of drama in Spain, Loeb climbing from third to win by just under three seconds from the M-Sport Ford of reigning champion Sebastien Ogier.

Now 44 years of age, Loeb has only made occasional WRC appearances for Citroen between his World rallycross and Dakar Rally commitments for Peugeot, but not even he could have envisaged a ninth Catalunya victory in an event crucial to the championship hopes of Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak.

But in a throwback to the days when he reigned supreme, Loeb fought them off to emulate Kris Meeke's Spanish win of a year ago, the last time a Citroen driver topped the podium.

"To win after almost six years is incredible, but to do so in a battle like this is amazing. I never believed I would win again," said Loeb.

Ogier re-took the lead in the championship after Neuville's Hyundai suffered a broken wheel on the final power stage, dropping him to fourth behind the Ford of Elfyn Evans. Ott Tanak, who led for much of the rally until his Toyota also suffered a puncture, finished sixth.

Leob's team-mate Craig Breen was a distant ninth at the end of a rally in which he made too many small but costly errors.

Meanwhile, Wayne Boyd had to settle for a podium place after leading the final round of the European Le Mans sports car series at Portimao. The Ulsterman drove the middle stint in the four-hour race, taking over from United Autosports team-mate Hugo de Sadeleer and moving ahead of the sister Ligier of Phil Hanson.

He handed over the lead to Will Owen for the final leg but they slipped to third as Filipe Albuquerque won on his home circuit in the No.1 UA car. Colin Turkington just missed on on the podium in the final two races of the Chinese Touring Car Championship in Shanghai despite qualifying 333 Racing Volkswagen on pole position. The British champion struggled to get the car off the start line and was swallowed up by the chasing pack, dropping back to finish fourth. He was fourth again in race two, from ninth.

Belfast Telegraph

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