Loeb wins in Spain as Ogier regains WRC lead
Sebastien Loeb has won a World Rally Championship event for the first time in nearly six years in Spain as Sebastien Ogier moved back ahead in the title race.
Loeb took the rally lead with a shrewd tyre choice for the start of the final morning and went on to beat Ogier by 2.9s overall while previous championship leader Thierry Neuville was fourth.
Ott Tanak kept his slim title hopes alive by winning the Power Stage.
Loeb (Citroen) started Sunday 8.0s from the lead but opted for harder tyres on the first loop in anticipation of the wet roads drying up quickly.
His competitors kept soft tyres on their cars and the nine-time world champion won both stages to lead by 7.1s ahead of the repeat of the loop.
While those two stages were not straightforward for Loeb, who spun at a roundabout on Special Stage 17 and suffered from right-hand understeer in the Power Stage, he still finished the latter stage in third to cling on to overall victory.
It was his third of three planned WRC outings for the season, with no word yet on a potential 2019 program.
Ogier (M-Sport Ford) set up his runner-up finish with a strong run in the wet on the Saturday, won SS17 on the Sunday, and finished second in the Power Stage, giving him a championship lead of three points.
Overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala was slow in the opening loop of Sunday and then gave up time to help his Toyota Gazoo team-mate Tanak, who finished sixth overall after picking up a puncture while leading the event on Saturday.
Latvala himself was eighth for the event, with he and Tanak split by fellow Toyota pilot Esapekka Lappi.
Neuville finished fourth overall after a strong run through Saturday and the start of Sunday was brought undone when he damaged a wheel on his Hyundai late in the Power Stage.
That drama helped Elfyn Evans (M-Sport Ford) to an outright podium having also picked up two bonus points in the final stage.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai) was fifth in his home event, and also on the Power Stage.
Jan Kopecky (Skoda) had already been confirmed as the WRC2 class champion for 2018 when Skoda Motorsport opted to not enter Rally Australia, meaning that team-mate Pontus Tidemand could not overhaul him.
Kopecky finished second to another team-mate, Kalle Rovanpera, in the rally.
The outright championship will be decided in Coffs Harbour when Kennards Hire Rally Australia is held from November 15-18.
Highlights: Stages 15 to 18
Rally de España: Results (Top 10)
|1||10||Sebastien Loeb||FRA||Citroen||C3 WRC||3:12:08.0|
|2||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+2.9|
|3||2||Elfyn Evans||GBR||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+16.5|
|4||5||Thierry Neuville||BEL||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+17.0|
|5||6||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+18.6|
|6||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+1:03.9|
|7||9||Esapekka Lappi||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+1:16.6|
|8||7||Jari-Matti Latvala||FIN||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||+1:26.4|
|9||11||Craig Breen||IRL||Citroen||C3 WRC||+2:07.0|
|10||4||Andreas Mikkelsen||NOR||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+2:48.2|
Rally de España: Power Stage (Bonus points)
|1||8||Ott Tanak||EST||Toyota Gazoo||Yaris WRC||8:02.5||5|
|2||1||Sebastien Ogier||FRA||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+2.0||4|
|3||10||Sebastien Loeb||FRA||Citroen||C3 WRC||+2.8||3|
|4||2||Elfyn Evans||GBR||M-Sport Ford||Fiesta WRC||+3.1||2|
|5||6||Dani Sordo||ESP||Hyundai||i20 WRC||+4.6||1|
|28||Khalid Al Qassimi||UAE||0|
|1||Toyota Gazoo Racing||331|
|3||M-Sport Ford WRT||306|