Dani Sordo meanwhile completed the podium after a super impressive performance in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC car. The Spaniard finished the first day in fourth, but then moved up to third in SS10 when Ford's Mikko Hirvonen
lost more than a minute with a puncture. Although Hirvonen tried to fight back, Sordo kept calm and in the end comfortably took P3.
Sordo also set some great times – including two second quickest efforts and one third, a top effort especially when you consider this is only the new MINI WRT's team third WRC event – and its first on asphalt.
“I am really, really happy for me and the team,” Sordo said. “For the first rally of the car on tarmac this is very good. This is a surprise and the times were so close to Ford and Citroen
that we have a lot of confidence for the next rally. The car is really good on tarmac. We have a good set-up and the suspension is perfect.
“Obviously we can improve and get the car better and better but this weekend it was okay. We shall now work a lot to try and beat Citroen
as well. I tried to push hard on the Power Stage and it was great to be third, but I didn't want to take any risks. The mechanics have worked really hard and not made any mistakes so I hope to spend some time with them tonight.”
Further back, behind Sordo and Hirvonen, Citroen
privateer Petter Solberg
got the better of Kris Meeke, in the other MINI WRT John Cooper Works WRC car, in the battle for fifth. Meeke had been in front going into Sunday's final leg, but an error in SS16 saw him slip back and the Brit then suffered further disappointment when he had to retire in SS18 after losing all power.
“Tyre choice here was like a lottery,” Petter remarked. “The works teams are so fast that it is difficult for a privateer [like myself] to make it onto the podium.”
F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top six, albeit more than 3.5 minutes adrift in his ICE 1 Racing-run Citroen
DS3 WRC. The Finn had a somewhat mixed event, but still managed to post 13 top-ten times - his best a fifth in Panzerplatte 2 on Saturday.
“Overall, I made a lot of mistakes during the weekend,” said Kimi. “I feel I wasn't quick enough due to these errors. It was a complicated rally. I learned a lot especially not to put the tyres just anywhere! Last year we could cross the pavements without problems. With the new tyres it's not possible as our puncture in the Power Stage proved.”
M-Sport Stobart's Henning Solberg
was next up and he closed right up on Raikkonen during the last leg, eventually finishing 21.3 seconds back: “This was a difficult rally. We had many problems. But now we are on a good level on tarmac,” stated the Norwegian.
Behind, Armindo Araujo gave MINI a further boost by securing eighth in his Motorsport Italia-run John Cooper Works WRC car, with Peter van Merksteijn Jr ninth in his DS3 WRC, an encouraging weekend for the youngster after that big crash in Greece and four retirements in succession.
Dennis Kuipers completed the points' scorers in tenth, ahead of Britain's Matthew Wilson
and runaway SWRC winner, Ott Tanak.
Tanak took the Super 2000 class comfortably, over 5 minutes up on Nasser Al-Attiyah. Frigyes Turan was third.