Sébastien Loeb has won his 8th consecutive Rally Catalunya, his 76th career WRC victory.
After the spectacular start last Thursday in Barcelona, the three competitive days started with mixed stages on Friday, where gravel stages were combined with tarmac ones, which since 3 years ago is a distinctive feature of the RallyRACC, as it is the only round of the Championship that offers it. Furtheremore, the rain made the conditions even tougher for the participants, as it reduced the grip on the first run and even more on the second, due to the great amount of mud.
That day many of the favourites had to retire after off-track excursions, such as Petter Solberg (Ford) and Dani Sordo (Mini), leaving Norway's Mads Ostberg (Ford) in the lead at the end of the day, ahead of Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford), all of them within 50 seconds, but with the rest more than 1 minute behind. Friday was one of those days that make us relive the essence of the rallyes, with difficulties that called for good strategy and driving quality.
Saturday was a quieter day, but the roads were still wet during the morning, due to the rain fallen overnight, and dried during the afternoon. Sébastien Loeb showed all his talent and took the lead after the second stage. It was the place where everyone -- including his rivals- expected him to be. From then on he managed his advantage and ended the day with a 27-second margin over Latvala, and more than a minute advantage over the rest.
Finally, on Sunday the round was dominated by Dani Sordo (Mini), who, without any chance to get a good place in the overall standings, won the first three stages (adding them to his two stage wins yesterday) while Loeb managed his advantage over Latvala, who was comfortable with his second position. Sordo's dominant performance in the first loop was mirrored by Latvala in the first two stages of the second loop, always with a small margin over Sordo. In Santa Marina took place the power stage (extra points of the top three drivers), which allowed Latvala, Sordo and Loeb to receive the extra score. In the La Serra d'Almos, Sordo achieve his sixth stage win of the rally, one tenth faster than Latvala, who anyway finished the rally in second position, 7 seconds behind the winner, Loeb. The French driver's team mate at Citroën Total, Mikko Hirvonen, accompanied them on the podium.
A close fight in the rest of the Championships
The WRC Academy drivers, who finished their round on Saturday, hailed the win of a Spanish team of the RACC, José Antonio Suárez-Cándido Carrera. The driver from Asturias won the round and became runner-up of the under-25 category, while his co-driver from Galicia took the Championship title. Behind them finished Pontus Tidemand and the already Champion Elfyn Evans.
At the PWRC (Producción), the new World Champion is Benito Guerra (Mitsubishi), who did a great race in Catalunya, where he beat Marcos Ligato (Subaru) and Subhan Aksa (Mitsubishi). The two local drivers of this class, Yeray Lemes and Josep Maria Membrado, both with Mitsubishi, retired.
The SWRC (Súper 2000) crowned Craig Breen (Ford) who won the WRC Academy a year ago, as the new World Champion of the series. As Guerra, Breen also won the RallyRACC and also finished in an excellent seventh place overall. Breen was in the Salou podium together with Per-Gunnar Anderssson (Proton) and Yazeed Al Rajhi (Ford).
Finally, the single-brand Rally Class saw the victory of Yuriy Protasov (Subaru), final champion in the series.
The FIA World Rally Championship 2012 ended at the same time as the RallyRACC. The next season will start at the end of January with the Monte-Carlo Rally and the 49th RallyRACC, second-to-last rally of the World Championship in 2012, will take place from October 24th to 27th.
RallyRACC 2012 Final Classification
1-Sébastien Loeb-Daniel Elena (Citroën DS3 WRC), 4h.14'29"1
2-Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), at 7"0
3-Mikko Hirvonen-Jarmo Lehtinen (Citroën DS3 WRC), at 1'46"8
4-Mads Østberg-Jonas Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), at 1'56"4
5-Jarkko Nikara-Jarkko Kalliolepo (Mini John Cooper Works WRC), at 16'07"9
6-Craig Breen-Paul Nagle (Ford Fiesta S2000), at 18'10"4
7-Chris Atkinson-Glenn Macneall (Mini John Cooper Works WRC), at 19'14"7
8-Per Gunnar Andersson-Emil Axelsson (Proton Satria Neo S2000), at 20'16"1
9-Dani Sordo-Carlos del Barrio (Mini John Cooper Works WRC), at 25'40"6
10-Evgeny Novikov-Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), at 25'46"6
1-Sébastien Loeb (France/Citroën), 270 points
2-Mikko Hirvonen (Finland/Citroën), 213 points
3-Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland/Ford), 154 points
4-Mads Østberg (Norway/Ford), 149 points
5-Petter Solberg (Norway/Ford), 124 points
6-Evgeny Novikov (Russia/Ford), 88 points
7-Thierry Neuville (Belgium/Citroën), 53 points
8-Ott Tänak (Estonia/Ford), 52 points
9-Martin Prokop (Czech Republic/Ford), 46 points
10-Sébastien Ogier (France/Skoda), 41 points