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GP Week : Issue 102
racing tyres, but many drivers suggested they would have been faster, and safer, on gravel tyres! Loeb led all the way, running first car on the road (except for the final stage round the town of his birth, Haguenau) which in the circumstances was probably an advantage, and Citroens held the top three places all event. They did not win every stage, thanks to the efforts of Jari-Matti Latvala. The pace of the Finnish driver helped mask the increasing performance shortfall on asphalt of the Ford Focus, and once again, that also of his senior teammate Mikko Hirvonen. Hirvonen was visibly ill at ease in these immensely tricky conditions, and it was only by professional stoicism that he eventually finished fifth, but over two minutes behind Latvala. Citroen had five competitive C4 WRCs competing, Dani Sordo given the privilege of partnering Loeb in the number one Citroen team. He did better on this event than the Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier. This gave him an amazing 17th second place on a WRC, and still without victory! Ogier had one lucky moment when he slid straight in to a tree on Day 1 but without significant damage, but then on Day 2 he ended his run when his front suspension collapsed. He re-started for the final day and did well to finish 6th. His Junior teammate Kimi Raikkonen fared no better. He was unlucky when he slid off the road where there was nobody to help. He reached the end of Day 2 in 47th position and decided an early return home was appropriate. American driver Ken Block who had been invited to become a registered WRC driver for the first time, finally completed a world championship event route but he had hydraulic problems on Day 1. Happily he provided back-up points for the Stobart team. This was one for the fans. Whatever the problems of running a rally of major importance for the first time in such an area, the fans were the winners of this event. As Sebastien Loeb went about doing what comes naturally for him, there were two other stars of the event: Andreas Mikkelsen, who was given the embarrassing insult when ordered to start Day 1 last, had pulled through to snatch the lead in Group N after seven stages, ahead of all the SWRC drivers. And Jari- Matti Latvala, whose three fastest stage times disproved the theory that Focuses were no good on asphalt: "Yes", he declared, "it is true – but can you really call this event an asphalt rally?" Rallye de France 2010 style was certainly unique. It was great that it was run. Will it ever be held again? “Kimi, I TOLD you this rally lark wasn’t that easy ...” Jean Todt, left. 46