Loeb eyes Rally GB victory
Sebastien Loeb (Gallo Images)
Cardiff - France's eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb will be looking for a fourth win in five starts when he races the Wales Rally GB starting on Friday, with his eye on even bigger prizes.
Loeb can help Citroen to an eighth manufacturers' crown in Rally GB this week but also boost his own chances of a ninth drivers' title.
"It's a rally that I like and we've got some good memories from the last few years," said the Frenchman, who is aided by co-driver Daniel Elena.
"This year, it would be good to win and secure an eighth world title for the team. That would also make us ideally placed to win a ninth championship at the Rallye de France.
"However, I'm not obsessed by that, by any means. I'll be approaching this rally just like any other."
Loeb topped qualifying on Wednesday, taking 2:22.26 to complete the 3.91km stage at the Walters Arena complex north of the event base in Cardiff.
"It was a good run," said Loeb. "I made one or two small mistakes but I am happy, it was not raining for me."
As Loeb gained an early advantage in his bid for his fourth Rally GB triumph, Norwegian arch-rival Petter Solberg was left ruing his luck as the heavens opened just as he set out on his run in his Ford Fiesta.
"It's unbelievable," Solberg said, after finishing 0.051 off Loeb. "The rain tap is turned on again at the start line (just like the last rally in Germany).
"I didn't know what the grip would be like and I was braking too early for some of the corners. It's frustrating but I still have one aim and that is to win."
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen, in the second works Citroen, was third quickest with Citroen Junior Thierry Neuville - making his Rally GB debut - fourth fastest.
Factory Ford pilot and last year's winner Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland was fifth quickest, 1.133 slower than Loeb with Ford privateer Mads Ostberg completing the top six.
Neuville said: "Perhaps the course will make me think of Rally of Scotland, in which I have competed twice.
"In any case, I'm not afraid of racing in places that are totally new to me. The purpose of this season is to provide me with experience and I'm always happy to take part in rallies that I could only watch on television a few years ago."
"I know I have the turn of speed, including on stages that are totally new to me. But for this event, I'm not going to concern myself too much with my times, because my goal will really be to avoid making any mistakes."
The Wales Rally GB is the 10th of 13 in a season which culminates in Spain's Rally de Espana on November 11.