Sebastien Loeb moved one step closer to fulfilling his desire of winning all twelve World Rally Championship events in 2009 as he completed a comfortable victory in Portugal.
A fourth win of the year for Loeb, as well as his 51st career triumph, his run of six stage wins on leg two did the damage as he simply maintained the gap to Mikko Hirvonen
over leg three to finish 24 seconds ahead.
Beginning the day with a 26.8secs advantage, Loeb defied his road position to eke out a further four seconds over Hirvonen after his rival struggled with the effects of lingering dust, as well as low sun.
Although the Finn fought back with victory on stages 16 and 17, he was never in a position to settle for anything other than second position behind his main foe.
Hirvonen had led the way after day one, benefitting from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala's premature retirement from the lead, the Finn lucky not to have been injured after rolling his car 17 times down a steep hill.
He also made the most of Loeb's error on the first stage of the day when he overshot a junction and was then left to wait for dust around him to settle before he could get going again.
However, despite losing around 20 seconds, the error arguably benefitted Loeb as he ended day one in touch but, most importantly, third on the road. With Hirvonen and Dani Sordo sweeping the road ahead on day two, Loeb duly made the most of it by claiming six stage wins and ending the leg with a sizeable margin.
Although Hirvonen had hoped to turn the tables on day three, the lingering dust being kicked up by Loeb put paid to his charge and he was forced to settle a fourth podium of the season instead.
Having struggled last time out in Cyprus, Sordo was a solid – if distant third – in the second Citroen
C4 to help the French manufacturer extend their dominant lead in the constructors' standings.