Loeb wins in Norway

The outcome of the 2009 Rally Norway went all the way down to the wire, but Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena ended up securing their 49th world class win after a thrilling clash with Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen.

The event saw the Franco-Monegasque pair claim their first ever success in Norway, taking the total number of different WRC rounds they have won to 20, and also establishing a new outright record for the series.

Dani Sordo and Marc Marti finished fifth to maintain Citroen's lead in the Manufacturers standings.

The third and final leg of the 2009 Rally Norway was also the longest. The day's programme featured 126km of competitive action, and the two loops of three stages to the east of Hamar set the scene for the finale of the fight between Sebastien Loeb and the Ford team's Mikko Hirvonen, who have been battling hard since Thursday evening's start.

With an overnight lead of just 15 seconds to its name, the Citroen pair was in no position to control from in front, and the day started with them losing 5.3s to their rivals on SS18 - Valer 1.

"A snowplough had been through and I found myself having to sweep aside the layer of loose snow that was covering the ice," said Loeb. "I drove well, but there was nothing much I could about it."

On Elverum 1, Loeb profited from a clearer run to retrieve 6.1s, before dropping another 1.2s on Budor 1.  Even so, the five-time World Champion was pleased to return to service with his cushion at the top basically unchanged: "We managed to match Mikko's time for the three stages, so we more than limited the damage. The closer we get to the end of the rally, the harder it will be for him to bridge the gap. That said, I don't really know what sort of conditions to expect for the second pass..."

After the 30-minute break for service, competitors headed back out to Valer where Hirvonen was once again the faster of the two drivers, and another strong drive on Elverum 2 saw the Finn close to within 7.7s of Loeb with only one test remaining.

This meant that the second round of the 2009 World Rally Championship would be settled on the 19.74km Bodum stage, a test reputed for its long straights which enable the cars to exceed the 200kph mark!

Despite the reassuring split times that were coming through, the tension was palpable in the Citroen camp, but the engineers and mechanics were able to show their joy at last when Daniel Elena radioed to confirm they he and Loeb had completed the final stage unscathed.