(Reuters) - Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb chalked up the 70th victory of his world championship career on Sunday after winning Rally Argentina for the seventh year in a row.
Victory was entirely predictable for the eight-times world champion after Citroen ordered his Finnish team mate Mikko Hirvonen to hold position and not challenge the Frenchman for first place.
With no contest between the front two, and a huge gap between them and the next placed car on the gravel roads near Cordoba, championship leader Loeb saved his tyres and cruised to his third win of the season 15.2 seconds ahead of Hirvonen.
“Another victory here in Argentina it’s incredible for me and especially after Portugal it was important for the team to react like this,” said Loeb, who had started the event four points clear of Norway’s Petter Solberg and 16 ahead of Hirvonen.
“It has been a great rally here with Mikko finishing second.”
Norway’s Mads Ostberg, winner of the previous race in Portugal after Loeb crashed and Hirvonen was then disqualified on post-race checks after being hailed as the winner, took third place in a Ford.
He was gifted the place after Spanish stand-in Dani Sordo, replacing Finland’s injured Jari-Matti Latvala at the works Ford team, suffered mechanical problems and retired with the podium in sight.
Martin Prokop of the Czech Republic was fourth, also in a Ford, with Belgian Thierry Neuville fifth in a Citroen ahead of Solberg for Ford.
Solberg took three bonus points however for winning the final 4.15km ‘power stage’ and extended Ford’s run of scoring finishes to 150 rallies.
Frenchman Sebastien Ogier was seventh in a Skoda, with Russian Evgeny Novikov eighth for Ford, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah (Citroen) ninth and Estonian Ott Tanak collecting a point for Ford in 10th place.
Five of the top-10 finishers had rejoined the rally with time penalties after earlier retirements.
Former Formula One racer Eliseo Salazar of Chile, now 57, finished 12th in a prodrive Mini on his world rally championship debut.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond