Jari-Matti Latvala believes tactical decisions on the final day did change the course of the Jordan Rally and that Sebastien Loeb gained 'hugely' by not having to act as the road sweeper.
Latvala, who turned 25 on Saturday, celebrated his birthday by eventually finishing second and notching up his best result in the World Rally Championship for almost a year.
The result moved him up to second in the drivers' championship, ahead of his BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, who finished 20th under the SupeRally after crashing out on day two.
Latvala dominated the opening leg and picked his way skilfully through the rocky desert landscape to build a 30.2 second advantage. As a result he was first in the start order for the second leg and lost time as he swept the slippery loose gravel from the road surface to create a cleaner and faster line for those behind to follow. He ended Friday's action in third, 27.7 seconds from the lead but with an ideal start position for day three.
A flurry of tactics at the morning's re-start however re-shuffled the start order as drivers deliberately incurred time penalties to engineer a more favourable start position for their team-mates. Latvala was now fourth in the running order - with Hirvonen third - but, crucially, main rival Loeb was second rather than first and avoided the unwanted role as road opener. Latvala attacked initially but, after two narrow escapes, he soon called off his pursuit and settled for a worthy second place.
"It's a much better birthday than last year when I thought I might die after crashing and rolling 200 metres down a hillside in Portugal," Latvala reflected. "Second is a great result, although I felt a little disappointed this morning when I realised I wouldn't be able to win.
"The tactical decisions this morning changed the course of the day. It had a huge effect with Loeb second in the start order. The difference between first and second in the order is massive in terms of road cleaning, while second and third or third and fourth is only marginal. This is my third good result in three rallies this season though and this run has boosted my confidence."
Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn meanwhile was delighted to see Latvala step up to the plate and challenge for the victory, especially after the M-Sport-run outfit had been off the pace last time out.
"After the disappointment on the last round in Mexico, we promised we would bounce back here, and we did. Jari-Matti was the class act of the first day and he remained in the battle for victory until today. It was a confidence boost for him and the whole team," Quinn summed-up.