Sebastien Loeb slid down the Castrol EDGE Rankings as a number of incidents blighted his efforts in Rally Sweden.
The eight-time champion, a dominant winner in the Monte Carlo season opener, lost nearly two minutes with a mistake on SS7, effectively ending his chances of victory.
After fighting his way back through the field, an eventful rally took another twist when he picked up a puncture on SS17. He eventually came back to finish sixth, little more than 10sec down on M-Sport Ford's Evgeny Novikov. The result proved costly in the Rankings, with Loeb falling to ninth, equaling his lowest-ever position. His losses were compounded by having to drop last year's Rally Mexico, which he won, under the Rankings rollover system.
As Loeb slipped his closest rivals all gained ground – in particular Jari-Matti Latvala, who clinched victory in Sweden after a long-running battle with Loeb's Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen. Latvala rose seven spots to 13th in the Rankings, an all-time high, as a result of his victory.
The jump also took him to third in the rally standings, above Hirvonen – who moved up two spots to 15th – but behind Sebastien Ogier, who also gained one spot to move into 12th. The result opens up the possibility of Loeb being overhauled in the WRC Rankings for the first ever time, with Latvala staking fewer points than the Frenchman when the championship travels to Mexico in March.
Further down the order there were triple-figure gains for Novikov and Patrick Sandell, who finished as the top Mini driver following Dani Sordo's retirement. Novikov's fifth-place finish, ahead of the recovering Loeb, was enough to secure a massive 108-pace rise to 211th, comfortably his highest-ever ranking. Sandell, meanwhile, brought his Mini home in eighth, gaining 125 spots and moving to 362nd as a result.
To see the full Rankings, visit www.castroledgerankings.com.