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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 April 2005, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Loeb wraps up New Zealand victory
Sebastien Loeb
Loeb was the dominant force throughout the rally
World champion Sebastien Loeb sealed a convincing victory on the Rally New Zealand after easing the tempo on day three of the event.

Loeb was rarely challenged on the opening two days and started Sunday with almost a minute's lead.

Marcus Gronholm, who finished the rally second, topped the timesheets on three of Sunday's four stages, but could not overhaul Loeb's lead.

Third place went to the Subaru driver Petter Solberg.

Loeb's win broke the Norwegian's stranglehold on the world championship finally lessen.

Solberg, winner in New Zealand 12 months ago, had been eyeing a third consecutive triumph in this year's world championship following wins in Sweden and Mexico.

The win was overdue for Loeb, who has been plagued by bad luck this season.

After winning in Monte Carlo, he retired with engine problems in Sweden and struggled to fourth in Mexico after suspension setbacks.

The Citroen driver had led by 23.1 seconds after day one and extended it to nearly a minute on day two.

Loeb's team-mate Francois Duval just missed out on a podium place for fourth, while Markko Martin moved into fifth ahead of Tony Gardemeister after a thrilling burst on the 20th, and final, stage.

Overall standings:
1. Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 3:34:51.6
2. Marcus Gronholm (Finland) Peugeot 49.8 secs behind
3. Petter Solberg (Norway) Subaru 1:08.7 secs
4. Francois Duval (Belgium) Citroen 2:06.3
5. Markko Martin (Estonia) Peugeot 3:09.1
6. Toni Gardemeister (Finland) Ford 3:16.3
7. Chris Atkinson (Australia) Subaru 4:37.2
8. Gianluigi Galli (Italy) Mitsubishi 6:50.5
9. Harri Rovanpera (Finland) Mitsubishi 7:44.6
10. Manfred Stohl (Austria) Citroen 8:15.3




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