Kronos Citroen's Sebastien Loeb won the Cyprus Rally on Sunday, the twelfth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship - the third time in as many years he has triumphed on the 'Island of Aphrodite'.

Loeb took the lead on day two after Marcus Gronholm spun in SS14. Prior to that he had lost ground on Friday in the opening loop, when he had to run first on the road and sweep away the loose gravel. Although he came back at the Finn on the second run through, Gronholm went into Saturday with a 6.4 second advantage.

On day two it appeared that Gronholm would have enough of a cushion to win and in the morning there was nothing between them and they completed the first run through the 30.33 km Foini test, with virtually identical times, just 0.1 seconds between them, while the next best driver was some 45 seconds further adrift.

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In the afternoon though the pendulum swung in Seb's favour and after Gronholm spun on SS14, Loeb went in front by 1 second. The two-time world champion then put the hammer down in SS15 and SS16, to end the second leg 21.8 seconds in front, giving him a good cushion to take into the final day. Loeb began the final day by once again stamping his authority on proceedings, increasing his advantage by another 7.3 seconds. After that Gronholm eased off and although the Finn won the remaining three tests - SS20 and SS21 having been neutralised - Seb paced himself to the finish in Lemesos, eventually triumphing by 21.2 seconds.

The victory, his eighth of the season, moved him closer to taking his third world title, now 35 points ahead and while mathematically he can still be beaten by Gronholm, Loeb only has to take fifth place in Turkey in two-three weeks time to wrap up the drivers' championship.

Gronholm meanwhile elected to ease off on the final day, conscious that his second place would further boost BP Ford's bid to win the constructors'. Indeed the M-Sport-run squad again finished 2-3, and in doing so they reduced Kronos Citroen's advantage in the manufacturers', down from 12 points to just 7. Marcus though will be none too pleased with his error on day two, especially as he also did the same thing in Japan three weeks ago and ironically also in SS14.

Hirvonen in contrast, while over 5 minutes off the leading two at the finish, was not too disappointed with third. He settled into P3 early on Friday and opened up a comfortable gap over Manfred Stohl during the second leg, increasing his cushion from around 25 seconds to a minute. On the final day he ensured he matched the Austrian's spilts, eventually finishing 1min 23.6secs in front to claim his third consecutive podium place and his fifth in six rallies.

Stohl was pleased to take fourth though, even if he had been keen to emulate his Cypriot podium from 2005. The OMV Peugeot ace though conceded that such a feat is not likely at the moment, given the form of Loeb and the Ford team. He was though the highest placed 'manufacturer two' entry - and that was some consolation.

Toni Gardemeister was fifth, on his first outing since the Rallye Deutschland at the start of August - the Finn once again putting in a good drive in his Astra-run Citroen Xsara WRC. Although he had a few problems on day one with gearbox/transmission issues he was on course for points throughout and even managed to set two third best times on both runs through the Foini-Koilinia stage, the longest of the event at 30.33 km. He was also second quickest in the Down Town Special, but that was only for 'fun', due to safety concerns.

Further-down the order, Henning Solberg took sixth, the Norwegian moving up two places in the final stage, after his brother, Petter, hit a rock and lost more than a minute, while Xavier Pons had transmission problems after the test and couldn't reach the service. Having had to re-join under the SupeRally on Saturday, after going off the road in the final stage when he was blinded by the bright sunlight, it was a more than solid result for Henning and one that yielded the OMV-backed driver 3 points.

Pons was classified in seventh under the SupeRally in the 'third' Kronos-run Citroen Xsara, while Petter took the final drivers' point for eighth.

The Subaru team leader was understandable disappointed, but any hopes of a decent result evaporated on day one when he was plagued by technical issues. On the first loop he had overheating problems, while on the repeat run through he had to complete the last two stages stuck in second gear. While day two was more plain sailing by then he had already lost too much time and the incident with the rock in the final stage on Sunday, is just typical of his luck at the moment.

Petter's team-mate, Chris Atkinson didn't fare especially well either. Atkinson had been in fifth place until the penultimate stage on day two, when he went off the road and got stuck in a ditch. He re-started on Sunday and took ninth position.

Stobart VK's Matthew Wilson rounded out the top ten, the Brit having shone early on and been in sixth, until a flat-battery, after the final stage on Friday dropped him down the pack. He re-joined the action under the SupeRally on day two, only to go out again on in the same test as Atkinson, when he too went off the road. Utilising the SupeRally again on Sunday he finished to scoop the final manufacturers' point for the Stobart squad.

Of the rest, Stobart VK's Luis-Perez Companc was the only other 'works' driver to finish, bringing his Ford home in 14th place. He too had to use the SupeRally, having had a power-steering failure on Saturday in SS11, while running in eighth.

Daniel Sordo was the biggest casualty of the event, the Spaniard crashing out in SS20, the Down Town super special, when he went off near the start and into a concrete kerb. It was a bizarre place to go out, especially as all the drivers' had been informed prior to it that it would not count towards the overall results. The incident also cost Kronos Citroen the final manufacturers' point.

The other notable retirees included the two Red Bull Skoda entries - Harri Rovanpera and Andreas Aigner, both out following the very first test with electrical problems, while Stobart VK third driver, Juan Pablo Raies had to pull out following SS17, after his co-driver, Jorge Perez Companc blacked out in the 8.99 km Lageia test.

In the Production Car WRC category Fumio Nutahara took the win, having gone back in front on Saturday, when current PCWRC points' leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah went off the road in SS11. Nutahara, who also finished eleventh overall, took the win in dominant fashion, over 4 minutes up on Aki Teiskonen, while Khalid Al-Qassimi completed the PCWRC podium.

Only six of the ten PCWRC entries finished the event, Simone Campedelli fourth, 11 minutes off the lead, while SupeRally re-starters, Al-Attiyah and Toshi Arai were fifth and sixth respectively, the latter having gone out on day one in the very first stage. The fact he came back to win all the stages on Saturday and Sunday, just showed how costly his mistake was on Friday.

Of the PCWRC crews who didn't make it to the end: Nigel Heath retired in SS1, Aaron Burkart crashed out in SS11, Spyros Pavlides went out in SS15, while Andreas Tsouloftas was excluded for having received outside assistance at the end of day one.

The WRC now heads to Turkey in just under three weeks time and like this weekend's event, it is another hot weather, rough road event in the Mediterranean. Unlike Cyprus though, it is slightly faster with a great variety of stages and some water-splashes.

The Rally of Turkey, which is based in the southern coastal holiday resort of Kemer, runs from October 12-15.