Sebastien Loeb stands on the brink of breaking into the top five of the Castrol EDGE Rankings for the first time in almost a year following his dominant victory in Rally Deutschland.
The Frenchman was also the last non-F1 man to manage the feat, momentarily breaking up the seeming cartel of the Formula 1 five: Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
A ninth victory in Germany, and a seventh in 2012, could change that dynamic however.
Not only did Loeb gain points with his victory, but crucially he now enters a period of four rallies in which he defends very low points totals.
To put that into context, across this year’s opening nine rallies Loeb has scored an average more than 1,600 points in the Rankings. Over the final four events, he will defend an average total of just over 600.
The potential therefore exists for Loeb to make huge progress, particularly in Great Britain and France – which will effectively replace Australian and French rallies, both of which he crashed out in.
With Button less than 1,000 points ahead of Loeb, it is therefore entirely feasible that Loeb could jump into the top five after the forthcoming Rally of Great Britain.
Before that comes around, Button will already have raced at Spa and Monza, but given that he defends relatively high totals in both events his position is looking increasingly precarious.
In fact, with Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber only just up the road from Button and also defending decent totals, the eight-time WRC champion’s potential rise might not be limited just to fifth.
Loeb is not the only WRC man to have a chance of progressing up the Rankings, as evidenced by team-mate Mikko Hirvonen’s three-spot rise into 11th.
Hirvonen however enjoyed a far stronger conclusion to the 2011 season, meaning he will have to deal almost exclusively in victories and podiums to stand a chance of progressing higher.
Despite his gains, Hirvonen was also closed down by Jari-Matti Latvala in the fight for second in the WRC Rankings.
The Ford man recovered from a few wild moments to finish second to Loeb in Germany, and in the process secure a six-place jump up the Rankings.
He now sits 17th, six spots behind Hirvonen.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg shared similar gains, both moving to new all-time highs in the process.
Mikkelsen, seventh on the road, moved up five spots to 29th.
That was outdone by Ostberg, who finished fourth, gained six spots and now lies 37th, the first time he has broken into the Rankings top 40.
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