BARCELONA (Reuters) - Sebastien Loeb took his first world rally championship win in more than five years in Spain on Sunday while fellow-Frenchman Sebastien Ogier regained the overall lead from Belgian Thierry Neuville with one race to go.
Loeb, a record nine-times world champion, is competing only in selected rounds for Citroen after retiring from full-time racing at the end of the 2012 season and Spain was his third and last planned outing of the year.
“It’s incredible. I can’t believe it. I had a good feeling with the car but I didn’t think I could still win a rally,” said the 44-year-old.
The win was the 79th of his career, and first since Argentina in 2013, as he beat M-Sport Ford’s reigning champion Ogier by 2.9 seconds.
Hyundai’s Neuville finished fourth and now trails Ogier by three points going into the final round of the season in Australia next month.
Toyota’s Estonian Ott Tanak stayed mathematically in contention, 23 points off the lead. Ogier has 204 points, Neuville 203 and Tanak 181.
The manufacturers’ championship also remains open, with Toyota leading on 331 points, Hyundai on 319 and M-Sport on 306.
Tanak took five points from the power stage and was also helped by team mate Jari-Matti Latvala slowing to allow him to claim sixth place.
Neuville had been third until the final power stage when a broken wheel rim dropped him off the podium with M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans pipping him by half a second.
“We were unlucky; there was a stone in the road that I couldn’t avoid and it damaged the right rear wheel rim,” said Neuville.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond