Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb has secured victory on Rally Deutschland today, coming out top by over 50 seconds.
Loeb, who started as the favourite, didn't disappoint and he led throughout, once again proving he is the master in Germany and stretching his unbroken run of wins on the Trier-based round to eight.
In the end the Frenchman was quickest in nine of the 19 stages and only once did he post a time slower than second, when he was fifth in the short 4.37 km event ending Trier super special.
Seb ended the opening day 9.5 seconds up on his team-mate, Dani Sordo, his only real threat throughout the three-days. However, while the multiple WRC champion was kept honest initially on Saturday morning, he broke free from the Spaniard on the first run through the demanding 48 km Panzerplatte test, doubling his lead to 23 seconds.
Going into the final leg, Loeb led by 35.7 seconds and despite apparently taking it easy he still won two more tests en-route
to his fifth win of the year and his 59th in total. The result further strengthens his position in the battle for the 2010 WRC drivers' title, extending his lead from 48 points to 58 with just four rounds to go.
"This is incredible - it is just great to be the winner here for the eighth time. In this rally we have had no problems at all and drove without making any mistakes. I had to win here," Loeb said.
Sordo meanwhile took the runners-up spot and while the gap to Loeb at the end was big, the Spaniard opted to ease off and consolidate second after losing so much ground in SS10. It was still a very good performance though, especially as he had to get use to his new co-driver, Diego Vallejo.
"I am very happy," Sordo said. "At first I was able to keep up with Seb's pace but he got faster and faster. Anyway, it is a really great result and this was with my new co-driver."
The result was also a great one for Citroen as it means it took its second maximum haul of the year leaving Ford further behind in the Manufacturers'.
Just for good measure, Sebastien Ogier was third too giving the French team a clean sweep of the podium places.
Ogier, back with the Citroen Junior Team for this round, got by Jari-Matti Latvala on Saturday morning when the Finn spun in Panzerplatte 1. The youngster then pulled further ahead and beat the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT man to P3 by 20.6 seconds: "This is my first position on the podium on an asphalt rally," Ogier noted. "We have had a great weekend."
Despite missing out on a place on the rostrum though, Latvala did still pick up a good haul of points and he achieved his pre-event target of finishing in the top-five on a surface that is far from his favourite.
"I have felt very comfortable here on asphalt," Latvala said. "I have never been as good in the Rally Deutschland as this year. I had to give up third place due to mistakes on Panzerplatte, but we were close to finishing on the podium. I think I don't have to worry about asphalt rallies any more. This gives us confidence for the upcoming events."
Petter Solberg rounded out the top five, recovering well after losing time on Friday with two punctures. The Norwegian had considered withdrawing on Saturday morning to save money for the next WRC round, but his sponsors told him to continue and that perseverance paid dividends.
Indeed while he benefitted from problems that befell his rivals, he set some top times too, winning five stages in his privately run Citroen C4 WRC car: "This was an important weekend for us," Solberg said. "We had problems in Finland, but we were able to show that we can be fast. The team has done a good job."
Further down the order, Matthew Wilson managed to re-take sixth this morning in his Stobart Ford Focus and he eventually came home 3.8 seconds up on F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen.
"This was an extremely tough rally," Wilson noted. "As Kimi made a mistake this morning I had the chance to overtake. On the whole we are satisfied."
Raikkonen added: "It was nice to set the fastest time on the last stage. However I made too many mistakes throughout this rally."
Of the rest, BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT 'third' driver, Khalid Al-Qassimi was eighth, followed by Subaru privateer, Mark van Eldik and Patrik Sandell, who won the SWRC class in his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Sandell finished 4.7 seconds up on Martin Prokop, while overnight leader, P-G Andersson had to settle for third after knocking a wheel off his Fabia in SS15 and losing over 3 minutes.
"This is a very important and emotional victory, especially here in Germany," Sandell noted. "We've had a perfect rally on a tricky course. We had to fight until the very end to win the division."
In the other support categories, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo pilot Armindo Araujo took the PWRC honours – 24.4 seconds up on Hayden Paddon, while Hans Weijs Jr was the JWRC victor in his Citroen C2 1600, 5 minutes up on Aaron Burkart.
"This was only my second asphalt rally. We didn't think we could win the PWRC here. It was easier than I thought," said Araujo.
Weijs Jr added: "We pushed right from the start, the competition however has made mistakes and so we could win the JWRC quite easily. It was great fun."
As for retirees, the Rallye Deutschland claimed two major scalps, BP Ford Abu Dhabi number one, Mikko Hirvonen and WRC returnee, Francois Duval.
Duval crashed out heavily on Saturday, when he rolled his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC car in SS14. He had been running fifth.
Hirvonen also retired on day two, with mechanical problems sidelining him in the penultimate test. He re-joined under the SupeRally today, only to retire again after SS16 with gearbox issues. His failure to score means mathematically speaking he has no chance of beating Loeb and winning the 2010 WRC drivers' title.
The 2010 FIA World Rally Championship now continues next month with Rally Japan, which runs from September 10-12.STOP PRESS:
To see the result following today's WRC Rallye Deutschland - CLICK HERE.
To view the latest championship standings - CLICK HERE.