Sebastien Loeb becomes a 'nonuple champion'

The French rallying great claims the World Title for the ninth time in his hometown at the Rally of France.

    France's Sebastien Loeb (R) and co-driver Daniel Elena celebrate another title victory [AFP]
    France's Sebastien Loeb (R) and co-driver Daniel Elena celebrate another title victory [AFP]

    Sebastien Loeb was crowned world rally champion for a record ninth successive time with two legs of the season still to come on Sunday.

    The French rally great clinched his latest title with victory in the Rally of France, leaving him with an unassailable lead in the overall standings.

    There was double joy for his team Citroen who claimed the constructors title for the eighth time.

    "I am the nonuple champion...nonuple, I don't even know this word, I'll have to learn it now!"

    Sebastien Loeb

    Loeb's win in his hometown of Haguenau in Alsace pushed him up to 244 points in the drivers' title race with his teammate, Mikko Hirvonen who finished third, on 173 points and out of contention for the title with rallies in Italy and Spain remaining.

    "Nine titles! Yes, we've done it, this is huge," said Loeb.

    "I am the nonuple champion...nonuple, I don't even know this word, I'll have to learn it now!" said Loeb who is planning to compete in only four or five rallies next season as he shifts his focus to the World Touring Car Championship.

    "I was carried along by the fans over the past four days, I'd really like to say thank you to them, there were people lining the route everywhere with flags, my friends were in tears, I was close to cracking myself."

    Total domination

    Loeb had a 15.5second cushion over second-placed Jari-Matti Latvala in a Ford Focus with Hirvonen 44sec back in third.

    His domination over the sport has been virtually total since winning the first of his 75 rallies in Germany in 2002, four years after his world rally championship debut in Catalonia.

    The 38-year-old's first title came in 2004, and he has been crowned drivers' champion every season since.

    "It's a great moment for the co-driver as well. This is cool! We've done it! This is also the end of a beautiful adventure....it's the end of a story, of a career, even if you never know with Seb"

    Co-driver Daniel Elena

    Aside from his record nine titles Loeb also holds the record for consecutive wins (six), number of wins in a season (11 in 2008), number of wins in a specific rally (nine in Germany), number of times on the podium (111), and number of consecutive podiums finishes (15 between Sardinia in 2008 and Argentina in 2009).

    Loeb, reflecting on his drive to victory, said: "The last day was very complicated.

    "In the morning there was a lot of aquaplaning. I really scared myself during the first special stage when I came out of a bend too wide.

    "But it was ok in the end. Then this afternoon I just looked after myself.

    "My co-driver Daniel (Elena) has just shaken my hand in the car and told me "there we go, that's the last title, now it's over".

    "Our last title together, I can't think about that too much at the moment.

    "Apart from going off the road in the Rally of Portugal it's been a perfect season."

    Unsung hero Elena added: "It's a great moment for the co-driver as well. This is cool! We've done it! This is also the end of a beautiful adventure....it's the end of a story, of a career, even if you never know with Seb."

    SOURCE: AFP


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