TALLINN - The World Rally Championship ended with victory for Citroen's Sebastien Loeb at the Telstra Rally Australia on Nov. 14. The Frenchman toped the overall drivers' standings with 118 points, followed in second place by Subaru's Petter Solberg with 82 points, and third place by Ford's Markko Martin with 79 points.
Loeb said he found it very hard to focus on finishing the event after the retirement of all his leading rivals during the early stages of the rally. He eventually finsihed 1 minute, 55 seconds ahead of Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera. Markko Martin and Petter Solberg retired on leg one, before Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm made it three major retirements at the start of leg two. "After Marcus went out, it was quite difficult for me to concentrate, because there was no one to fight against," Loeb told the World Rally Championship Web site. "I dropped my pace off, but I immediately spun so I realized that wasn't the way to go forward. The car was perfect - I had no problems at all - and the rally was really enjoyable. The stages were very challenging."
Martin was forced out when his car engine suffered from low oil pressure and the tech team couldn't manage to fix it before the beginning of the next race in the allotted 10-minute repair time.
But not that it much mattered. The outcome of the Telstra Rally Australia, held Nov. 12-Nov. 14, couldn't have altered Loeb's victory in any case. Before the Telstra Rally Australia, Martin, who had been three points behind Solberg, said that he hoped to steal the second place spot in the drivers' and the teams' standings. But it wasn't to be for the Estonian
Prior to his misfortune in Australia, Martin had won two WRC events in a row in Spain and in France.
Martin's growth in stature in the WRC has been significant. This year he won three WRC events, in Spain, France and Mexico. During WRC 2003 Martin came fifth and won just two rallies. A year before the 29-year-old Estonian finished ninth in the WRC drivers' standings.