Citroen's Sebastien Ogier
secured the victory on Rally Japan today, even though it was his first time competing on the event.
Ogier, who led early on, ran in the top-three throughout and he eventually took the honours on the tenth round in the 2010 World Rally Championship by 15.7 seconds.
The Frenchman finished the first day 21.3 seconds off the lead, but he closed back to within 5.4 seconds off P1 on Saturday, despite slowing in the final 'proper' test to ensure he would have a better road position for Sunday's leg. Not that he needed it in the end, as his main rivals all had problems.
Petter Solberg slipped back with suspension woes, while Mikko Hirvonen
was also taken out of the equation after a hydraulic pump failed. Ogier thus had a relatively easy run to his second career victory, following his maiden win in Portugal back in May.
The result further strengthens his hold second place in the WRC drivers' championship and he is now 26 points up on Jari-Matti Latvala, with three rounds to go.
"It was my first time here and to win is fantastic," Ogier said. "Arriving here I said I didn't really like this rally and it will be difficult for me. But I found a very good feeling. On the first day we took the time to learn and understand the roads. On the second day we looked at the speed and to have a good position for the last day. Today we had to really push hard and we won. It is perfect."
Petter Solberg meanwhile had to be content with the runners-up spot and after leading for most of the event he could have been forgiven for feeling somewhat disappointed.
However, he maintained he was pleased with 'silver', especially given he has been less than 100 per cent fit this weekend and given he had to nurse his car to the finish today as there was no mid-day service to make repairs.
"When I got the problem with the front suspension in the second stage this morning I immediately knew I had no chance to win," Solberg noted. "[But] after my illness, after this problem and after having to drive in first position on the road though, I'm still quite happy to finish second."
Hirvonen, who had ended Saturday just 3.7 seconds off Solberg, was similarly handicapped on the final leg by mechanical problems and he lost over a minute as a result, eventually ending up in sixth: "Okay, I manage to go to the finish. But I'm very disappointed. When the third day started early this morning, I thought I had a real chance to win," he said.