Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb took another step closer to retaining his title today in Greece, when he chalked up a record fifth win in succession.

The Frenchman once again dominated - after winning in NZ, Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey - and despite starting first on the road on Friday, ended the first leg of the Acropolis Rally on top, after storming through the final test. Saturday saw him lay down the gauntlet - winning all eight tests, and after Marcus Gronholm, his only real challenger suffered from transmission problems in SS13, he ended the second leg with a healthy 1 minute 25 second lead.

Today the Citroen ace looked unstoppable and another stage win brought his tally to 12 out of a possible 19.

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Loeb now has 23 points in hand over his nearest rival in the drivers' championship, Petter Solberg, who failed to score.

"Five wins in a row? It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Loeb at the finish. "All I know for the moment is that thanks to the team's efforts to give us perfect cars and also thanks to Michelin, this rally has been extremely positive in view of both title chases. We know we're not invincible and this winning run will come to an end one day but, if we want to extend it, we cannot afford to relax and next week we will be back out testing."

Ford team leader, Toni Gardemeister secured the runners-up spot, to take his third podium this year, and equal his best result to date. The Finn has now set his sights on securing a win.

"We've had no big problems and the whole weekend has gone well," noted Toni. "We've pushed hard from the very first kilometre. It's hard to fight against someone as experienced as Carlos but we did it. The Focus has worked well, Michelin's tyres have been excellent and now we have to try to turn second place into a win in the second half of the season."

Carlos Sainz was third place in what looks certain to be his final appearance in WRC. It was his 97th podium from 196 starts and it also helped Citroen to leap-frog Peugeot in the Constructors' championship, where they now lead by 5 points.

"It's been a fantastic weekend," said the Spaniard. "I am proud to have succeeded in meeting the objective [Citroen boss] Guy [Frequelin] set me, and proud to have scored valuable points in both events. The team is back on top of the championship and I hope it will stay there. They deserve it. As for me, I have finished my career in world class rallying on the podium of the event that gave me my first WRC win. What more could a sportsman ask for?"

Marcus Gronholm meanwhile was next up in fourth, the Finn to far behind Gardemeister and Sainz after his problems on leg 2 and while Mikko Hirvonen, was quickest in the final two tests, the double world champion, never really looked likely to lose his spot.

"There was nothing we could do today," he commented. "So I thought it was best just to bring the car home and make sure of the points. The roads were very rough and extremely dusty. It's been a disappointing rally as we were leading for most of the first day and we would have had a chance to challenge for the win."

Hirvonen won the 'privateer battle', securing fifth place in the process. He put in a good showing, especially as he was in a privately run Ford Focus. The Finn managed to win three stages in total during the three-day event, no mean feat when the rest were all taken by fully fledged works drivers. He also held of Harri Rovanpera, who closed in on the opening two tests this morning.

"I expected Harri to be faster than me on the opening stage because he has driven it before and I haven't. He was quick and I admit I was a bit worried going into the final two stages," said the former works Subaru driver. "As a privateer we have to work hard, but we've had a lot of help from M-Sport and Michelin for which I'm grateful. It has finally gone as it should. We had a few problems but we overcame them and this is a fantastic result."

Mitsubishi enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular event, with Rovanpera and Gigi Galli coming home sixth and seventh, while the final point went to Peugeot's Markko Martin - who held onto eighth.

Petter Solberg was ninth in his Impreza, the Norwegian never recovering after his problems on Friday, when he went off the road on SS2 and then broke a driveshaft in SS5. This will be one event 'Hollywood' will want to forget, especially as he won last year.

"As you'd expect I'm disappointed with my result," he said in the final service. "It's not the one I was hoping for. In fact, I have been disappointed about my results on the last few rallies - that's for sure. But we have to put this aside and look forward."

Xavier Pons completed the top ten, in his Kronos Racing OMV backed Citroen Xsara WRC. The Spaniard going well, especially considering he was making his debut with the Xsara.

Of the rest 'works' drivers, Stephane Sarrazin and Armin Schwarz came home in 13th and 18th respectively, both having taken advantage of the SupeRally format after being forced out on Friday with technical issues.

Janne Tuohino was the first permanent retirement, when he had clutch problems in SS3, while Chris Atkinson was also forced out on the opening leg with engine issues on SS6. Both were unable to re-start, the latter because the engine was too badly damaged, while Skoda elected to save Tuohino's engine for the next event.

Jani Paasonen was another of the unlucky ones, after crashing on Saturday, the Finn damaged the roll cage on his Fabia in the incident and therefore took no further part in the event.

Ford's Roman Kresta also retired - the Czech has had a dismal weekend. He broke a steering arm on the first test on Friday, and then when he re-started Saturday, electrical problems put him out on the road section to the opening test. Today he managed two stages, before again having to call it a day, as co-driver, Jan Mozny felt unwell.

In the Junior WRC, Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson led from SS2 to the finish, beating his team-mate, Guy Wilks by over 2 minutes. Urmo Aava was third, while Kosti Katajamaki was fourth, to give Suzuki a 1-2-3-4 result, ahead of Mirco Baldacci, Kris Meeke, Martin Prokop and Conrad Rautenbach in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

Only nine Junior crews were classified at the finish, Alan Scorcioni making it home, albeit 40 minutes behind Andersson.

In total of the 91 crews that started the event on Thursday and took in the super special at the Athens Olympic Stadium, only 54 of them made it to the finish in Lamia.

The WRC now crosses the Atlantic for round nine of the 2005 World Rally Championship, the Rally of Argentina. In contrast to the recent run of hot and rough Mediterranean events, South America's round of the WRC is a smoother, faster rally that takes place in the cooler temperatures of the Argentine mid-winter. Run in the countryside around the host town of Carlos Paz, close to the city of Cordoba, the rally begins on Thursday July 14.