Loeb follows up Greek rally triumph with more records in Argentina

VILLA CARLOS PAZ, Argentina (AFP) – World champion Sebastien Loeb, driving a Citroen Xsara, set two new records at the Rally of Argentina yesterday, the ninth of the 16-leg 2005 world rally championship. The Frenchman, who became the first man to win five successive races with his recent victory in the Acropolis Rally in Greece, added another victory to his winning streak. The Argentinean win makes Loeb the first driver to triumph in seven races in a single season after dominating the event in the mountains near the Latin American country’s second city Cordoba. Loeb finished 26.1 seconds ahead of Finland’s Marcus Gronholm, driving a Peugeot 307, with Norway’s Petter Solberg third in a Subaru Impreza. He overtakes the 2004 record he already jointly held with Frenchman Didier Auriol, from 1992, of five consecutive wins and six victories in a single season. Loeb, who has 17 rally wins, is also bearing down on the all-time championship record of 26 victories held by Carlos Sainz. Former world champions Gronholm and Solberg had been looking to end the French driver’s winning streak. As well as his five wins in a row – New Zealand, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece – Loeb also won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally. But after leading the first two days Loeb won yesterday’s opening 18th stage, the classic 16.8km run from El Condor to Copina, after the start was delayed by 20 minutes due to spectator problems. The champion was third quickest through the subsequent Mina Clavero stage, with Ford’s Toni Gardemeister quickest ahead of fellow Finn Harri Rovanpera in a Mitsubishi. Rovanpera also won the penultimate SS21. Solberg won SS20 and the final stage of the day SS22. With seven races to come after Argentina, Loeb has a 27-point lead in the championship over Solberg, with Gronholm third and a further three points behind. Defending champions Citroen lead the manufacturers’ championship with 96 points to 90 for Peugeot. Ford are third on 62.

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