Loeb lurks as Latvala leads in Catalonia

Sebastien Loeb (AP)
Sebastien Loeb (AP)

Salou - Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb has a shot at his first win since 2013 after a stage success in the Rally of Catalonia Saturday left him in the leader's slipstream. 

Loeb retired from full-time rallying in 2012, competing in a handful of rallies since as he juggles interest in other forms of motorsport. 

But the 44-year-old who won the world title every year from 2004 to 2012 clearly hasn't lost his touch, the Citroen driver posting the quickest time in the 12th stage. 

That lifted him into third in the standings, eight seconds behind Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala with another French luminary of the sport, five-time champion Sebastien Ogier, in second, 4.7 seconds adrift. 

This is only Loeb's third event of the year and he will be entertaining hopes of celebrating his 79th WRC victory but first since Argentina five years ago. 

He tweeted: "A good afternoon just as we like. A stage win, attacking and attacking despite the conditions. P3 at 8 seconds off the leader! Tomorrow?! We are going to try." 

Of his 12th stage win he said: "I gave everything, I don't think I could have done much else. I'd promised a scratch time to Danos Elena for his birthday!" 

Loeb was referring to his co-driver who turned 45 on Friday. 

Overnight leader Ott Tanak of Toyota had remained in control until losing over one minute with a puncture on stage 10. 

Latvala was in confident mood heading into Sunday's closing four stages. 

"The feeling is good. Tomorrow's stages should be more like a pure asphalt rally. You cannot cut the corners so much and the roads should be cleaner," the Finn told WRC.com. 

Fifth-placed Thierry Neuville can win the title here ahead of the season-closer in Australia. 

The first special of the day had to be cancelled because racing fans had swarmed into viewing positions considered by race commissioners to be too dangerous.


1. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 2hr 35:01.8, 2. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta) at 4.7sec, 3. Sebastien Loeb-Daniel Elena (FRA-MON/Citroen C3) 8.0, 4. Elfyn Evans-Daniel Barritt (GBR/Ford Fiesta) 9.8, 5. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 12.7


8. Ott Tanak-Martin Jarveoja (EST/Toyota Yaris) 1:00.7

Stage wins:

Ogier (SS1), Tanak (SS2, SS9, SS14), Latvala (SS3, SS6, SS7, SS10), Mikkelsen (SS4), Sordo (SS5), Neuville (SS11, SS13), Loeb (SS12)

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