Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb
has won the inaugural Rally Bulgaria having held top spot throughout the three-days.
Loeb took the lead straight away on Friday and dominated the opening leg, winning all four tests to build a 28.1 second advantage. He then consolidated his position on day two, and while he only won one more stage, he was second in the other five tests on Saturday, to increase his cushion to 40.5 seconds. That meant he could just pace himself through the final four stages today and he eventually took gold by 29.5 seconds.
The result increases his lead at the top of the 2010 WRC drivers' championship and takes his points tally to 151 - 51 more than his nearest challenger with six more rounds to go and 150 points potentially up for grabs.
"It's all gone off like a dream, really," said Loeb. "We began with a good first day and we consolidated our position on the next one. Today was a bit more relaxed! I like the first Rally Bulgaria! It's got good stages that highlight the qualities of the drivers and the cars."
Loeb's team-mate Dani Sordo held on to secure the runners-up spot, despite coming under pressure from Petter Solberg. Solberg cut the gap to just 3.8 seconds this morning after the first test, but Dani responded and in the end took P2 by 6.8 seconds.
"I've achieved my aim in this rally," Sordo noted. "Seb made a decisive break in the opening stages and once again he was the quickest this weekend. My role was to bag as many points as possible for Citroen
for the Manufacturers' World Championship title, and I also wanted to win my duel with Petter. My second podium on the trot has boosted my confidence for the rest of the season."
Solberg meanwhile still had reason to be pleased, even though he couldn't take second. Indeed he won five stages in his privately entered Citroen
C4 WRC, an impressive feat - especially as this was his first event with new co-driver, Chris Patterson and only his second with the C4 WRC on tarmac. It was his fourth podium of the season.
"This feels so great. Two weeks ago we didn't even have a co-driver, so being at the podium today feels like a big achievement," said Solberg. "What Chris has done this weekend is absolutely amazing, and being on the podium is a big bonus.
"The car has worked perfectly during the rally and the team has made a great effort in getting us where we are today. It makes me really proud when our little private team is able to actually have a proper fight with the big manufacturers."
Sebastien Ogier, who secured his debut win in Portugal last time out, was next up and fourth. He had been running second early on, but lost time in SS3, when he misheard a pace-note and lost over a minute. That dropped him back to seventh, but he fought back to beat the 'works' Ford's and give Citroen
a 1-2-3-4 formation finish.