Rally News

Sebastien Loeb easily won the Rally Cyprus last weekend, after both Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg failed to restart the rally after terminal engine damage. Privateer Manfred Stohl took a surprise second place (the first time in several years a privateer has crack the podium), and Markko Martin won his battle with another privateer, Henning Solberg (yes, Petter’s brother) for third place. Loeb now leads the championship by 11 points over Solberg and Martin. Despite Martin’s humility thus far this season, claiming he doesn’t really have a shot at the championship, he’s really the only driver besides Loeb and Solberg with a shot at the moment. Solberg or Loeb have won every rally thus far, but Martin has consistently placed in the top five, also permitting Peugeot to hold the lead in the manufacturer’s race.

Cyprus produced one rather shocking change — Francois Duval’s fate with Citroen. Duval was positioned for a points score in Cyprus, and with Solberg and Stohl ahead, he would score more manufacturer’s points for Citroen (privateers cannot score points in the manufacturer’s championship). Duval, however, had a huge off on SS11, ending his rally. This was the third shunt and retirement for Duval this season, and Citroen was clearly not pleased with the youth’s progress. Even before Loeb pulled on to the finishing ramp in Cyprus, there were questions as to whether or not Duval would stay with the team. With the Rally Turkey only a few weeks away, Citroen had to nominate its points scoring team by 6:00pm yesterday. The final word? Carlos Sainz would come out of retirement to drive the second works Xsara for Citroen in Turkey. Management would not comment further on Duval’s status with the team, or even if the Belgian would drive a third works Xsara in Turkey. Further complicating matters, Duval split with co-driver, Stephane Prevot, after their shunt in Cyprus, leaving Duval precious little time to gel with a new navigator.