Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb
took his second consecutive win on the ADAC Rallye Deutschland this afternoon, despite more changeable conditions on the tricky asphalt stages.
The Frenchman was locked in a day-long duel with Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm - a battle that went right down to the final kilometre of the final stage.
Gronholm dropped time on the day's opening loop of stages north of the rally's Trier base when he clouted a kerb, damaging the suspension on his 206 WRC.
Loeb made the most of his rival's problem and eased his way clear, heading into the final stage with a 13-second advantage. Gronholm maintained his flat out pace, but admitted he was going to need his rival to make a mistake to allow him into the top spot. Loeb made no mistakes, but was overly-cautious on the first ten kilometres of SS22. The split time revealed that he had dropped ten seconds to the Finn, and it required an all-out attack from Loeb to bring his Xsara WRC to the finish 3.6s ahead.
Richard Burns finished third after a similarly tight fight with Colin McRae, while Markko Martin won the Inmarsat Star of the Rally award for setting ten fastest times. Mechanical troubles aboard his Ford Focus RS WRC03 ensured he would finish no higher than fifth, however.
Burns continues to lead the drivers' championship - extending his lead to four points over Carlos Sainz, while Peugeot heads the race for the manufacturers' championship with a seven-point cushion over Citroen.
All three Citroen
Xsara WRCs ran without problems today. Philippe Bugalski retired the fourth Citroen
on the opening leg with turbo problems.
Loeb's win here is his third ever WRC success - and his second consecutive win on this event. The Frenchman was on top form through Sunday; he may not have set any fastest times, but he brought the Xsara home at the head of the field having seen off the reigning world champion.
Colin McRae spun on the final stage of the first loop, after setting fastest times through the previous two. He and Burns battled through the last three stages, with the Scotsman being forced to give best to the 2001 champion, his cause not helped by a spin on SS19.