And sure enough, as if it would come as any surprise to anybody, it was Loeb who came out on top. A win for him with relative comfort meant that he now has an insurmountable gap in the championship, and he celebrated alongside his co-driver Daniel Elena.
It was a strange time to be crowned champion for the 9th consecutive time; Loeb has just announced that this season will be the last he will complete in full. He will complete some rounds next season but will no longer be gunning for the championship. It will most certainly be interesting to see who rises to fill the admittedly vast chasm left by Loeb. Also interesting will be who takes up the spare seat as a Citroen Works driver, with Mikko Hirvonen looking like he will take top spot at Citroen.
Back to the rally then, and it was an increasingly-impressive Jari-Matti Latvala who lay just 15 seconds behind the Frenchman. His form has come on leaps and bounds in the second part of the season and he now looks like the favourite to claim third in the championship. Most impressive is how cool he looks behind the wheel of his car. There are also rumours floating around that he will be joining Sebastien Ogier as a Volkswagen works driver. If there is any truth behind this then next season certainly looks promising already.
Third place went to the Other Finn; Mikko Hirvonen. His job at Citroen has been to secure consistent points for the team, something which he has done faultlessly. It is by having him on the team that Citroen have already won the manufacturers championship. Both Hirvonen and Loeb have only scored no points on one rally each this season. It also looks like Mikko will take the 2nd place for the championship.
Fourth went to Thierry Neuville; a really promising driver. I wouldn't be surprised to see this man succeed in coming years, once he gains a bit more experience.
Mads Ostberg finished fifth in the French rally, and here is another driver who has had a fantastic season. He certainly deserves a works drive next season and I think he could do really well. Perhaps we will see him take over Latvala's seat at Ford; he is already used to the Fiesta RS WRC after-all.
Tanak, Novikov, Atkinson, Prokop and Chardonnet round off the top ten, with Ogier lying in 11th in his Super 2000 Skoda.
Below are the drivers and manufacturers tables, and we will see you after the next rally. Incidentally, that starts this Friday; the Rally D'Italia 18-21 October. Mamma Mia!
|1.||Citroen Total World Rally Team||388|
|2.||Ford World Rally Team||259|
|3.||M-Sport Ford World Rally Team||137|
|4.||Citroen Junior World Rally Team||72|
|5.||Adapta World Rally Team||71|
|6.||Qatar World Rally Team||63|
|7.||MINI WRC Team||26|
|8.||Brazil World Rally Team||20|