Team orders pave way for Loeb victory
Eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb was given a boost in his bid to win a seventh Rally of Argentina on Saturday when Citroen told Mikko Hirvonen to hold his position behind his teammate.
Loeb started Saturday afternoon's stages with a 2.1sec lead over Hirvonen following a thrilling battle between the pair during the morning's three runs when the Frenchman took one stage to the Finn's two.
But with Ford's Dani Sordo slipping back in third spot, Citroen team chief Yves Matton imposed team orders on his two drivers, a gesture almost certain to guarantee a 70th career win for Loeb.
"I spoke to both the crews and they agreed that it was the best solution," said Matton.
"Sebastien almost went off on (on stage nine) and we can't afford to throw away a possible one-two, which would be a great result for both world championships.
"It's a bit hard on Mikko, but I hope he'll be able to stand on the top step of the podium again with us very soon."
The tactic seemed to work for Citroen as Loeb then extended his lead over Hirvonen 7.8sec after the afternoon's stages with just a super-special to come later Saturday.
"I was faster at the start, he was quicker in the middle then I come back at the end. This was perfection," said Loeb.
The French driver had held a minuscule 0.1s advantage over Hirvonen after Friday's opening six stages in this fifth leg of the 2012 championship.
1. Sebastien Loeb (FRA/Citroen DS3) 3 h 52:45.7
2. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN/Citröen DS3) at 7.8
3. Dani Sordo (ESP/Ford Fiesta RS) 1:48.3
4. Mads Ostberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) 2:55.5
5. Martin Prokop (CZE/Ford Fiesta RS) 9:16.0
6. Sébastien Ogier (FRA/Skoda Fabia S2000) 10:20.1
7. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR/Skoda Fabia S2000) 10:25.9
8. Thierry Neuville (BEL/Citröen DS3) 11:53.7
9. Armindo Araujo (POR/Mini John Cooper Works) 14:09.3
10. Petter Solberg (NOR/Ford Fiesta RS) 14:09.9
11. Evgeny Novikov (RUS/Ford Fiesta RS) 21:48.1
12. Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT/Citröen DS3) 22:33.6
Solberg 5 (SS1, SS3, SS10, SS11, SS12)
Loeb 4 (SS2, SS4, SS5, SS7)
Hirvonen 3 (SS6, SS8, SS9)