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Sebastien Loeb of France chalked up his second victory of this year’s World Rally Championship by winning the Mexican rally by nearly a minute and beating off a challenge from his close rival, Marcus Gronholm of Finland.

As in many of the previous championship rounds, fortune and a bit of luck favoured the winner.

In Loeb’s case, the break came when Norway’s Petter Solberg had to retire when his Subaru sprang an oil leak, leaving the way open for the Citroen driver to move into a lead he never looked like surrendering.

He was also helped by the fact that Gronholm in a Ford Focus had to try to recover from a poor opening day, when he finished well down the rankings.

It means that Loeb will be able to consign his last miserable outing, when he failed to score points in the Norwegian rally, behind him, and crucially it means he has closed the gap at the top of the championship table to four points. He is now lying second to Gronholm, who has 32pts, after the fourth event in the 16-round championship.

Ford also lead the manufacturer’s championship, with Citroen in 2nd place and Stobart Ford in third.

Loeb won only six of Rally Mexico’s 20 special stages but looked comfortable for the victory after Solberg dropped out.

There was to be no Loeb-like luck Austin and Gareth MacHale, the only father and son to drive in the rally. Both crashed out.

The next round of the championship takes place in Portugal, from March 30 to April 1.

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