Sebastien Loeb came through to take a dominant win on the Rallye Monte Carlo on Sunday, the opening round in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.
Loeb stamped his authority on proceedings from the off and after taking the lead on SS2 on Thursday pulled further and further ahead of his rivals, to eventually take the victory by over 2.5 minutes.
The Frenchman is now the undisputed king of the event and having equalled the number of Monte wins held by Sandro Munari, Walter Rohrl and Tommi Makinen last January, he has now gone one better and taken his fifth triumph at the Principality.
The result also gives the Citroen
#1 the maximum points from round 1 as he bids to take the drivers' crown for the fifth year in a row.
Mikko Hirvonen had to settle for the runners-up spot in his Focus RS WRC car - and the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi WRT man only inherited that on day 3, when Daniel Sordo
had engine problems and was forced to retire from the leg.
Subaru's Chris Atkinson
held on to take the final spot on the podium, only the second time he has managed the feat. The Aussie came under immense pressure from Francois Duval on the final day and saw his lead cut back from 20 seconds to just 1.1 seconds at the finish.
Duval had to be content with P4, but it was still a top showing from the Belgian and he set three fastest times on the final day. It may also help him to secure further outings with the Stobart
Ford outfit, as this was very much a one-off.
Petter Solberg was next up in fifth, albeit more than 1.5 minutes off the exciting battle for third in his Impreza, while Gigi Galli and Peugeot privateer Jean-Marie Cuoq came in sixth and seventh.
Per-Gunnar Andersson completed the top eight and in doing so gave the Suzuki SX4 WRC its first ever points finish on only its third outing in the WRC.
Stobart Ford duo Henning Solberg
and Matthew Wilson
were ninth and tenth, followed by SupeRally re-starters Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala. Dani incidentally took the final manufacturers' point for Citroen.
Full report and result to follow soon...