Citroen face a highly charged final two rounds of the WRC season after Sebastian Ogier took full advantage of team mate Sebastian Loeb's engine failure by winning Rallye de France in front of Mini's Dani Sordo, who scored the Prodrive run operations second podium of the year.
Ford's Mikko Hirvonen took the final step on the rostrum after Citroen privateer Petter Solberg was stripped of his third place, which enabled him to join Loeb at the top of the table, level on points.
For Loeb however, his main worry must come from his young compatriot Ogier, who in equal machinery has looked dangerous all year. Ogier could - and should - lead the championship race had he taken advantage of Loeb's uncharacteristic crash in Australia.
The Citroen pairing's duel, which has lasted all season, has already offered its fair share of controversy with the French marque seeming to favour the older statesman Loeb. However, Loeb suffering his fair share of bad luck and making the odd uncharacteristic mistake has bought Ogier back into play.
After taking his fifth win of the year in France, Ogier revealed he was relieved to cross the finish line after carrying the responsibility of scoring healthy points for the team in their manufacturer championship battle.
“It's been a very long rally as I carried the responsibility for the whole team on my shoulders," he said. "I'm just happy to be able to relax. Obviously, this victory means a lot to me from a personal point of view. Five wins in a season is already a pretty good achievement. I'd like to thank the team which gave me a perfect car."
The WRC circus now heads to Spain and Wales for the final two rounds of the championship, which should prove to be a titanic battle if this season's controversy and excitement has anything to go by.
by Simon Evans