Gilles Panizzi won. The Peugeot man’s 206 WRC was 13 seconds ahead of SÃ©bastien Loeb’s CitroÃ«n Xsara WRC.
At the other end of the top 20 there was a name Loeb would get to know and love along with the rest of the FIA ââWorld Rally Championship. Dani Sordo.
Earlier this week, Hyundai Motorsport confirmed that Sordo will remain at the top level in the WRC for a 17th season. The desire remains in the laughing Sordo and fourth place at the EKO Acropolis Rally Greece last month showed that the speed is also unbroken.
Back to 2003. The then 20-year-old Spaniard made his world championship debut at the Rallye Catalunya – Costa Brava – Rally de EspaÃ±a and drove a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII to a solid second place in class and 18th place overall.
Two years later he won a sovereign junior WRC title (including four top marks from seven starts) and started a career as a CitroÃ«n driver alongside Loeb.
An Xsara WRC driven by Kronos Racing was a good starting position and only four laps in his time in a factory-specific World Rally Car secured Sordo second place in his home race of the series. His preference for asphalt was immediately clear – in his rookie year he had never been on the podium in the asphalt laps.
Crucial for Sordo was his relationship with Loeb. The couple forged an immediate bond and teamed up to deliver three consecutive manufacturer titles to CitroÃ«n between 2008 and 2010.
In order to demonstrate his abilities outside of the French machines, Sordo switched to a Mini developed by Prodrive in time for the beginning of the 1600 cc era of the World Rally Cars. More podiums followed, but it took another season at CitroÃ«n to score an overdue but hugely popular first win.
The 2013 Rallye Deutschland was Dani’s 107th WRC start and his first victory. The service park has seldom been celebrated in such unison as on that Sunday evening in Trier.
The Cantabrian Sordo was – and remains – one of the most popular figures in the sport. And that applies to fans and team staff alike. Away from the stage, he’s always ready for a selfie and autograph, while being a superbly consistent points collector who has kept him busy at the hottest end of the sport for 16 years, the last eight at Hyundai.
Sordo’s adaptability, as well as his sustained pace on events that suit him well, have made this career longevity. When Hyundai proposed a sub-program in 2018, it worked with it and delivered points when they were needed most.
And yes, he would always take an asphalt test of the ever-changing grip levels of the soaked Welsh forests, but calling him an asphalt specialist wouldn’t do him a favor. Do not forget that thanks to the successive victories of the Rallye Italia Sardegna, he has had more success in the open than on asphalt.
But his greatest achievement has to be his ability to remain relevant throughout the World Rally Car era – and taking 49 podiums from 175 starts is a formidable achievement for the 38-year-old. The sport is looking forward to more of this in the next season’s hybrid era of the new generation.