Both BP Ford
drivers' however, managed to get the jump on Duval in SS8 and Marcus then went up to P2 in SS9, taking his first - and only - stage win of the event. With the second best in SS10, he moved away from the battle for third and he concluded day 2 12.6 seconds up on Duval.
The final day wasn't easy for Gronholm though and with Duval on a charge the Finn came under big pressure, seemingly cracking in the very last test, when he made a mistake and went off the road. That incident cost him over a minute and he dropped behind Duval and Hirvonen, ending up fourth.
Duval meanwhile was sensational throughout the event and his performance was extremely impressive.
Indeed the Belgian won more stages than Seb - 7 versus 5 - and if he hadn't made those crucial few errors on Saturday morning, when he spun twice in SS7 and stalled at the start of SS8, something that cost him around 20-30 seconds, he could possibly have had a very good chance to halt Loeb's run of wins.
The fact this was only his second WRC event of the season – and his first with the Xsara WRC since his win in Australia back in 2005, also showed that this was a very special drive and with him admitting pre-event that a good performance might allow him to do more events with OMV Kronos this season, it is extremely well timed.
He is also said to be in the frame for a drive with Suzuki, when the manufacturer steps up to the top level with the SX4 and this will have certainly put his name a bit higher up that list of potential candidates.
Mikko Hirvonen inherited the final place on the podium after Marcus' off in SS19. He had been just behind Duval at the end of Saturday, but a wrong tyre choice dropped him out of contention and in the end he finished 60 seconds back.
Skoda privateer, Jan Kopecky took fifth – his best result of the season in the Fabia WRC and one that equals his best from last year when he was P5 in Spain. The Czech may have had a few issues with his engine on Saturday, but he kept his cool and was well rewarded at the finish.
He also set some very competitive times, including a fourth fastest time on day two and achieved the result very much on merit.
Subaru's Petter Solberg
rounded out the top six and while he had some problems on day 1 and damaged his steering in SS6, he was more in the groove by the finish. Indeed he set five top five times on the final day and despite nearly hitting a cow in the final test, the 18.08 kilometre-run through Moselwein, brought his Impreza WRC safely to the finish.
Toni Gardemeister and Jari-Matti Latvala
rounded out the points' scorers' in seventh and eighth respectively, the former having dropped back in the final two stages, when he had handbrake problems in the penultimate test. Still though it wasn't a bad drive for the ex-Skoda and Ford works man and considering he also had hydraulic and damper problems on Saturday, two points was pretty good for him on his return to using an Astra-PH Sport Xsara WRC.