Jake | Friday 11th September 2009 | Formula 1, Rally

Sebastien Loeb won the first five rounds of the World Rally Championship. Back in the spring, yet another title for the Frenchman looked like a depressingly done deal.

Since then, it’s all changed. Mikko Hirvonen has won the last four rallies, and now holds a narrow lead over Loeb in the standings. What’s gone wrong for Loeb? I’m not sure.

Moreover, I haven’t seen the matter being raised a great deal. That’s in stark contrast to Formula 1, where the shrinking of Jenson Button‘s championship advantage has been widely debated by all and sundry, not exactly to the delight of Button himself. But I suppose that’s the difference between the WRC and Formula 1.

Anyway, one theory I thought worth investigating is that Loeb has been distracted by all the Formula 1 chatter, which has involved both Toro Rosso and more recently USF1. Alas, I don’t think the dates stack up.

Loeb’s season started going downhill at Rally d’Italia in May, where he finished 4th. But it wasn’t until July that the Toro Rosso situation arose, and by that time Loeb had suffered a 7th place finish and a retirement. Loeb was back to 2nd place for Rally Finland at the end of July.

We’ve only had Rally Australia since then, where he finished 2nd again, having been penalised for a non-conforming anti-roll bar link. It’s not the first time this season Loeb has fallen foul of a safety regulation, his fourth place in Rally d’Italia being a result of co-driver Daniel Elena unfastening his belts too early for a tyre change.

So one could argue that his defecit to Hirvonen is a down to his team and his co-driver. But equally, you could argue that it’s down to his crash in the Acropolis Rally. Or maybe Hirvonen’s just done well.

In any case, one thing’s for certain: as Loeb himself acknowledges, he’s got some work to do to take his sixth championship.

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