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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Loeb wins second successive title
Sebastien Loeb
Loeb joins an elite group after retaining the title
France's Sebastien Loeb successfully defended his World Rally Championship title after finishing second in the Rally of Japan behind Marcus Gronholm.

The Citroen driver needed a podium finish in the 13th of the 16 rounds to retain his crown.

Loeb's eight rally wins so far this season is already a record, beating his six victories last year.

Norway's Petter Solberg, in a Subaru, had led until the 24th stage but hit a rock in the penultimate stage.

Australian Chris Atkinson finished in third place.

I didn't want to get involved in the battle with Petter and Marcus
Sebastien Loeb

Loeb is the second Frenchman to have won the world title after Didier Auriol, the 1994 champion.

He is the fourth man to retain the title after Finns Juha Kankkunen (1986/87) and Tommi Makinen (1996/99) and Italian Massimo Biasion (1988/89).

"To be honest, it didn't matter if I was first, second or third in this rally - I just wanted to win the championship," said Loeb.

"I didn't want to get involved in the battle with Petter and Marcus because I would have been very annoyed with myself if I'd gone off as a result of me chasing them and then making a mistake."

Solberg was sorely disappointed to miss out on his first victory since Mexico in March, but said he had no choice but to retire after damaging his suspension.

"We could do nothing to avoid the rock, it was right in the line," he said.

"It happened so fast and that was that. I'm absolutely gutted. There's nothing more to say."

Final positions in Rally of Japan:

1 Marcus Gronholm (Fin) Peugeot 3 hours 25 minutes 32 seconds
2 Sebastien Loeb (Fra) Citroen 3:26:54
3 Chris Atkinson (Aus) Subaru 3:28:12
4 Francois Duval (Bel) Citroen 3:28:31
5 Harri Rovanpera (Fin) Mitsubishi 3:29:31
6 Toni Gardemeister (Fin) Ford 3:30:04
7 Roman Kresta (Cze) Ford 3:31:04
8 Daniel Carlsson (Swe) Peugeot 3:32:11
9 Antony Warmbold (Ger) Ford 3:33:11
10 Armin Schwarz (Ger) Skoda 3:37:39

World standings:

(After 13 of 16 events)
1 Sebastian Loeb (Fra) 107 points
2 Marcus Gronholm (Fin) 71
3 Petter Solberg (Nor) 65
4 Markko Martin (Est) 53
5 Toni Gardemeister (Fin) 50
6 Harri Rovanpera (Fin) 31




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01 Oct 05 |  Rallying
Solberg ahead at Rally of Japan
30 Sep 05 |  Rallying
Grieving Martin to miss next race
20 Sep 05 |  Rallying
Co-driver Park dies in accident
18 Sep 05 |  Rallying
Rally world pays tribute to Park
18 Sep 05 |  Rallying

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

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