Sebastien Loeb led a jubilant Citroen team to a dream result on the Monte Carlo Rally. The Frenchman won the opening round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship by 38.1 seconds from team-mate Colin McRae.
Carlos Sainz brought his Xsara WRC home in third place to ensure a clean sweep of the podium positions for the Versailles-based team.
Loeb and McRae were untroubled throughout the final loop of four stages to the north of the rally's Monaco base. Sainz, however, was made to fight for third after his car hit brake trouble on the opening stage.
Ford's Markko Martin moved ahead of Sainz after SS12 ensuring a nail-biting finish to this classic event. Martin spun his Focus RS WRC02 on the penultimate stage dropping ten seconds. Fastest time for Sainz through the final stage of the rally was enough for the Spaniard to get third place back.
Peugeot 206 WRC driver Richard Burns finished fifth behind Martin with leading privateer Cedric Robert sixth in his Peugeot.
At Citroen Carlos Sainz's Xsara WRC suffered a broken wheel bearing on the first stage this morning. This knocked off a rear brake pad in the following stage. The other two Xsaras ran well through the day.
Loeb scored his second win on a round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo. Loeb drove steadily through the day, taking no risks. He and McRae started the day on a stud-less snow tyre, which was felt to be the safest choice for the conditions. In the afternoon both drivers switched to a slick racing tyre and made it to the finish without any problems.
Sainz's brake problem cost him time in SS12 and he slipped back to fourth. The Spaniard set fastest times on the final two stages to pull that time back and deliver the perfect result for Citroen.
''To win an event which is so specialised as Monte Carlo is fantastic,'' said Loeb. ''After last year, I think this proves to people that I have the pace to win. It's perfect for the team.''
Colin McRae added: ''We had a good clean run through the event, the only problem in all three days was when we couldn't get reverse gear after we spun on the first day. I'll take second place, I'm happy with that.''