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WRC World Rally Championship 2011: favorites die at the season finale

WRC World Rally Championship 2011
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F ord spearhead Mikko Hirvonen had to bury his title chances after an accident that looked harmless at first and was eliminated. Sébastien Loeb was therefore able to celebrate his eighth World Championship title in a row after just two out of four days of the rally. But the Frenchman didn't see the finish ramp either: In a traffic accident on a liaison stage, the radiator of his Citroen DS3 WRC was so badly damaged that it was impossible to continue driving.

So victory was free for a Ford Triple victory: Jari-Matti Latvala won ahead of the two Norwegian privateers Mads Östberg and Hennig Solberg.

Mikko Hirvoven with a leaking radiator

On Friday morning shortly after ten o'clock, Mikko Hirvonen's dream of the title was over. On the Dyfnant 1 special stage, the Finn slipped off the track with his Fiesta WRC immediately after taking the lead off Loeb. A branch digs into the radiator, which then suffered from incontinence. An ailment that caused further illnesses. Hirvonen and Co Jarmo Lehtinen kept topping up water, but after a few kilometers the 1600 turbo was only running on three cylinders. Finally he didn't want to start anymore. The end. And the eighth title for Loeb. The Frenchman was given a glass of champagne during the evening service. But only for the photo. As a responsible driver, Loeb immediately turned off the winner's shower again.

Hirvonen bore the premature end with composure. 'At least we tried it. But I didn't have full confidence in the car here. I never knew whether I would get a second chance in the corners if it didn't work out one hundred percent.' Jari-Matti Latvala, the second Ford Finn, could see a lot of good things in the new situation, because suddenly he had a clear run. In contrast to the last rally, where he was always a victim of stable management, he did not have to take tactical considerations into account. Latvala seized the opportunity and rushed to his first victory in a World Championship in a year and a half. 'After Mikko's failure, I thought: I have to give something back to the team,' reported Latvala. He was not entirely flawless. 'Once I shot straight into an emergency exit.'

Morally important victory for Jari-Matti Latvala

Although Loeb was also able to show carefree after Hirvonen's mishap, Latavala managed to beat Loeb to first place on Saturday with four best times to push. But the leadwas only gossamer at six seconds. Only when word got around on Sunday morning that Loeb had retired after an accident with a spectator car, Latvala was sure of his cause. 'A stone fell from my shoulders.' At the finish he summed up: '2011 was a difficult year for me. I just lost a few rallies, I thought I would never win again. This victory came at exactly the right time.'

Also two Norwegians can go into the winter break lively and cheerful. The two Ford privateers Mads Östberg and Henning Solberg surprisingly came in second and third. The cheerful Solberg secured the last podium place only in the last meters. He benefited from the fact that mini-driver Kris Meeke posted a small spin. In the end, Solberg managed to work out a lead of seven seconds over the Northern Irish.

Sébastien Ogier, Dani Sordo and Kimi Räikkönen drove off

As usual in Great Britain, the list of failures was extremely long. Sébastien Ogier started the round of departures: after just one kilometer on the first special stage, his Citroen stranded, rear first, on a wall on the spectacular coastal road near Llandudno. Dani Sordo turned into the undergrowth with his Countryman on the second day. Kimi Raikkonen said goodbye to the rally and probably also to his career as a rally driver with a hearty role.

World champion Loeb recorded the strangest accident: On a liaison stage he collided with an oncoming spectator car. 'It happened on a narrow forest path: we were driving over a knoll when a car came towards us. The driver came from Spain. Unfortunately, she reacted incorrectly. She dodged to the right.' The crash was inevitable. Nobody was injured and not even Loeb's mood was seriously damaged. He already had the World Cup under his belt. And next year he will target the title number nine.

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