Citroën's Sebastien Loeb saw off a dramatic late charge by WRC champion Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot 206 to win the Rally of Germany in wet and slippery conditions on Sunday.

Citroën's Sebastien Loeb saw off a dramatic late charge by WRC champion Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot 206 to win the Rally of Germany in wet and slippery conditions on Sunday.


The young Frenchman had kept in among the top times of the final day, but didn't win a stage. The victories went to Ford's Markko Martin (three) and Loeb's Citroën team-mates Colin McRae (two) and Carlos Sainz. Gronholm slashed the Xsara driver's lead from 13 seconds to three on the final stage, but Loeb did enough to score his second win of the season.

"Last year here, it was special because it was my first victory," said Loeb, who won in Germany last year when he made his world championship début. "This year, it was more difficult due to the weather conditions. Challenging Marcus Gronholm was not easy at all. I will never forget the final stages when we were so close to each other."


Loeb had a 13-second lead over Gronholm going into SS22, the rerun of the St Wendeler Land stage. But Rain had made the stage extremely slippery and Loeb eased off, not wanting to make a mistake.


However, by the half-way mark of the 19km stage, the French ace realised he had dropped too much time to Gronholm and it was the moment to keep the right foot down.

"I am very happy," said Loeb. "I have had a good fight with Marcus all through the race. I slowed down a little bit , because conditions were very, very difficult.


"When I saw the intermediate time in the stage I realised I had to push," he continued. "In the middle of the stage I was 10 seconds slower and I pushed. And at the end I was 10 seconds slower, so it was OK."


In the end, Gronholm was just 3,6 seconds away from scoring his first ever win on asphalt. "The margin wasn't big," the Finn said, "But big enough for Sebastien. It was a really difficult stage with lots of mud and tight corners."


Gronholm's final-day bid for victory got off to a poor start when the Finn overshot twice on the opening stage of the morning. The second mishap damaged a wheel and Loeb looked to be away clear.


The next twist at the top though came on the third stage of the day, when rain started to fall as the top contenders were on stage. Loeb got the worst of that and Marcus edged closer, before the Frenchman eased away again to set up that nail-biting final stage shoot-out.

Third place was also up for grabs at the start of the day... Martin was under pressure from McRae and Peugeot's Richard Burns. McRae came out of the blocks strongly and set top times on the first two stages, snatching third from a slow-starting Martin.


The Estonian looked to be up for the fight on the second stage, but then his Focus ERC 03 had differential trouble that gave him rear-wheel drive only for one and a half stages. With his podium ambitions quashed, Martin dropped to fifth place.

McRae's podium bid didn't last much longer. The Scot spun on the third stage of the day and he dropped behind Burns. It was close between the pair from there on, but it was championship leader Burns who ended up with the larger points haul.


Sainz took his stage win on the rain-affected SS19, sneaking through before it got really slippery. He wound up sixth overall after a protracted tit-for-tat battle for the place with Ford's Francois Duval. The squabble was effectively decided on the startline of the final stage when Duval stalled.


The Belgian held on to seventh place and the final point went to Petter Solberg in a Subaru Impreza WRC.

Original article from Car