British Win Seals 2009 WRC Victory for Loeb
Citroën driver Sebastien Loeb has the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship in the bag after victory in the season’s final round, the Rally Great Britain. This win, the 54th in the French driver’s career, enabled Loeb to overtake Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen on the points table and finish the year one point ahead of his Finnish rival. Pirelli, as tyre supplier to the WRC, has praised the 2009 winner and his team for their victory:
“We have witnessed a very exciting battle for the title and we are delighted that our tyres helped give the two protagonists the opportunity to fight for it until the very end of the season,” stated Pirelli’s rally manager Mario Isola. “We would like to congratulate Sebastien Loeb, his co-driver Daniel Elena, and Citroen for claiming their second successive world championships using Pirelli tyres. This has been a very closely-fought season, during which our tyres have impressed all the competitors with both their strength and consistent performance – on asphalt and gravel.”
Loeb came into the Rally Great Britain just one point behind his only title rival, Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen. In the closest finale to the World Rally Championship since 2003, the two drivers fought each other closely over all three days of the gravel event. Despite this frenetic pace, with both drivers taking significant risks in order to gain an advantage, their soft compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres performed well throughout the 348.30 competitive kilometres of the rally.
Both drivers took big cuts to find the quickest lines through the corners while pushing acceleration and braking to the limit. The Scorpions managed to effectively absorb the blows from the many sharp rocks that littered the route and soft stages that degraded badly during the second run. Conditions were also extremely variable, as is traditionally the case on Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship. Competitors had to deal with both torrential rain and bright sunshine, in temperatures that varied from eight to 20 degrees Centigrade. This made the roads both rough and slippery, yet the Pirelli Scorpion rubber cut through the mud to provide the necessary traction and grip in the adverse conditions.
“There was no room for error and we did not make any. I’m absolutely delighted to win this world title, which is one of the most rewarding of my career as we had to fight so hard for it,” commented Loeb after his victory. “Despite the very tough conditions, the car and the tyres performed perfectly, allowing me to take the fight all the way to the finish without backing off.”
Rally Great Britain was also the final round of the Production Car World Rally Championship, which like the main WRC also uses Pirelli tyres. The production category was won by Norwegian driver Eyvind Brynildsen in a Skoda Fabia S2000. The British event also saw the Pirelli Star Driver scheme concluding for 2009. Czech driver Martin Semerad was the quickest of the Pirelli Star Drivers through the Welsh forests, after Finland’s Jarkko Nikara slipped off the road on day two.
The 2010 World Rally Championship kicks off with the Swedish Rally from February 12-14. Next season is the last year of Pirelli’s current three-year contract with world motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, to supply the World Rally Championship with control tyres. The Italian firm will shortly start work on its tender to renew the deal into the future.