2003 World Rally champion Petter Solberg
has won the first WRC Rally Japan today [Sunday], giving Subaru victory on home soil.
The Norwegian cruised through the final day, and although he didn't set any fastest stages times, he was always 'there or there abouts', pacing himself and maintaining his lead over Sebastien Loeb.
Solberg, who had led from start to finish, eventually took the honours by 1 minute 13.3 seconds. It was his third win of the season.
"It's an incredible feeling let me tell you! I'm so happy to have won here; It's such a special event for Subaru that to come here and win in Japan on the first attempt is almost like a dream come true," he reflected.
Loeb was second, to further strengthen his position at the top of the 2004 drivers' championship. The Frenchman now has 84 points, 30 up on Solberg, who lies second. Loeb can now seal the title at the next rally.
"Of course, I'm very happy," commented Loeb. "It's the third time we finished second this season and I think it's looking rather good for the coming rounds."
Ford's Markko Martin took the final spot on the podium, after a better final day - the Estonian was a lot more happier with his pace notes through the concluding seven tests.
"At last our pace notes were perfect and today felt like a new rally for me," said Martin. "We made a few corrections, but that's normal on a new rally. Ironically, I had my notes right but on the long stage this morning I couldn't hear them because of an intercom problem. We were still fastest though, so it wasn't too bad!"
Marcus Gronholm and Carlos Sainz were involved in the only real battle for position, the Finn moving ahead on the third stage of the day, and eventually taking fourth by 13.1 seconds.