Sebastien Loeb took the win on the 'new' Rally de Portugal on Sunday, the first time the country has hosted a round of the FIA World Rally Championship since 1991.

Loeb took the lead late on Friday having trailed Marcus Gronholm for much of the opening leg. Indeed initially the Citroen man lost touch with the Finn in SS2 and SS3, before he came back in SS4, taking his first stage win of the event. That result moved him up to second overall, just 2.6 seconds off Gronholm going into the mid-day service.

On the repeat loop in the afternoon it was again a close run affair, but while Gronholm stretched his cushion in SS5 and took the gap up to 6 seconds, Seb struck back in SS6 and SS7. Two stage wins in succession saw the margin tumble, first to 1.5 seconds after SS6, before the Citroen driver went in front, to take a 3.1 second advantage into the second day.

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On Saturday Seb was in a class of his own and he stamped his authority on proceedings from the off. The Frenchman opted for soft tyres on the first loop and they proved to be spot on in the slippery and muddy conditions, which were in stark contrast to those of day one, thanks to overnight rain.

He therefore increased his cushion to 5.1 seconds after winning SS8 and then took it to 11.3 seconds following SS9. The Frenchman then backed that up with another stage win in SS10 to return to the mid-day service area at the Estadio Algarve 15.4 seconds in front.

In the afternoon the triple world champion again got the tyre choice right and with the harder BFGoodrich tyres he pulled further and further ahead on the now pretty dry roads. Indeed while there was nothing much between Loeb and Gronholm in SS11, the margin going up by just 1.7 seconds, the next two tests proved crucial, with Seb taking 14.1 seconds from the Finn in SS12 and another 9.7 seconds in SS13.

Loeb thus went into the final day with a more than comfortable 40.9 second advantage and just paced himself through the final 80 competitive kilometres. It was his third win of the season, after also triumphing in Mexico and Monte Carlo.

Gronholm meanwhile finished second on the road, after losing time on day two due to poor tyre choices, which meant he was unable to keep up. The turning point came on SS12 and SS13, when he lost more than 20 seconds in total. After that there was no way back.

He later dropped to fourth overall however, as all the 06 spec Ford Focus WRC drivers were handed a 5 minute penalty for a technical infringement - the stewards having discovered that the rear side windows did not comply with the homologation form of the car in terms of thickness. They were half a millimetre out.

Mikko Hirvonen initially took the final place on the podium in the sister Focus, 2 minutes or so adrift. Although the Finn thought he might come under pressure from Petter Solberg on day three, as it turned out he took third with ease prior to that penalty which dropped him to fifth.

Petter had a reasonable event, although the new Impreza didn't make the same sort of impact as it did in Mexico on day one, when 'Hollywood' led, before he had to retire. In the end 'Hollywood' had to finish the event with his car on two cylinders and as such from being 13 seconds behind Hirvonen at the end of Saturday, in the end the margin was more than a minute. He moved up to second though after the penalties applied to the Ford were taken into account.

Citroen number two driver, Dani Sordo also benefited from Ford's misfortune and after having taken fifth, was promoted to third. He was incredibly consistent throughout setting 15 top 6 stage times in total, despite a few issues.

Jari-Matti Latvala again led the way for the Stobart Ford team, as he did in Mexico, the highlight for him coming on day one, when he stormed up from 18th overall after SS2 to 6th at the end of the first leg, thanks to a trio of top three stage times. Although he had a few problems on day two, most noticeably when he went off the road in SS8 and a hit a small tree, he eventually made it to the finish and took the final point, after the 5 minute penalty dropped him from sixth to eighth.

OMV Kronos Citroen's Daniel Carlsson was sixth, taking points on his first gravel outing with the Xsara WRC, while Gigi Gali was seventh, also in a Citroen Xsara WRC, but his was run by Aimont Racing. The Italian was the best privateer entrant at the finish.

Outside of the points Manfred Stohl and Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top ten, the former securing the final manufacturers' point for the OMV Kronos Citroen squad. Stohl had been running in seventh until he went off the road on Saturday in SS10 and damaged the radiator on his Xsara. That incident cost him over 5 minutes and any chance of scoring drivers' points.

Henning Solberg began the final day in seventh, but was unable to keep up with Carlsson and then slipped to ninth, after clutch problems in the final 'proper' test. He lost another two places with the 5 minute penalty.

Of the rest, Matthew Wilson and Gareth MacHale came in twelfth and thirteenth overall, neither losing any positions in the overall classification despite the addition of 5 minutes to their overall times.

In the Junior World Rally Championship category, Per-Gunnar Andersson took the win, having hauled in Urmo Aava during the final day - although he was helped somewhat after the Estonian picked up a puncture. P-G began the third leg 30 seconds adrift of his Suzuki team-mate, but eventually ended up beating him by 3.7 seconds, having finally gone in front in the final proper test of the day.

Jozef Beres completed the JRC podium, although a long, long way back - over 7 minutes, while Jaan Molder, Andrea Cortinovis and Manuel Ruede rounded out the top six, ahead of Shaun Gallagher and Vilius Rozukas.

In terms of retirees, two notable drivers went out during the event and did not finish, namely Chris Atkinson and Guy Wilks. Wilks was the first to go when he rolled his privately entered Ford Focus WRC car on day one, in SS3. Atkinson went out the next day in SS10, when he went off the road and was unable to continue. Mitsubishi privateer, Toni Gardemeister also failed to finish, although he didn't retire, rather he was excluded.

The FIA World Rally Championship now takes a break for a month, before resuming for the Rally Argentina, which runs from May 3-6.