With Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb both focused on the title, Mikko Hirvonen capitalised perfectly on the Wales Rally GB this weekend to secure his third win of the season and the fourth of his career.

Hirvonen laid the foundations for his victory right from the off and while the weather was at its worse on day 1, with dense fog a particular hazard, the 27-year-old was in a class of his own, 6.5 seconds up Loeb in the first test, to grab the early lead.

It was a position he would never relinquish and he went on to set another four more fastest stage times on the first day to end proceedings nearly 40 seconds up on his illustrious team-mate.

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On Saturday Mikko pretty much maintained that advantage and while it did fluctuate a bit, with Gronholm cutting the gap to 30.3 seconds post-SS11, handling problems slowed the double world champion in SS12 and as such the margin went back up to 35 seconds.

During the final leg, Hirvonen kept the gap at around 30-seconds and despite a scare in the last stage, when he went off the road, he still came out top, albeit by just 15.2 seconds.

"Apart from an off on the very last stage on Sunday which cost me perhaps 15 seconds, everything worked very well for me here in Wales," said Hirvonen. "This season has been fantastic.

"This is the best possible way for me to go into 2008, perhaps as the Ford team leader."

Marcus Gronholm meanwhile was second in the sister car, on his 150th outing in the sport and his final event before retiring.

The eight points for the runners-up spot though were not enough to move him back in front of Sebastien Loeb in the drivers' championship and with the Frenchman coming home third he lost out by 4 points.

"I am disappointed, of course," he reflected. "I lost the title in Ireland. Will I come back? No, I've had enough."

Loeb, like Gronholm, was concentrating on the title this weekend and the Citroen man adopted a 'risk-free' strategy, aware that he only had to finish in the top-five to be sure of taking his fourth drivers' crown - a feat only managed to date by two other people in the 30-year history of the WRC, namely Tommi Makinen and Juha Kankkunen.

The Frenchman was delighted to come out top and equal Makinen's record of four crowns in succession: "This was definitely my hardest battle for a World title," said Seb, who celebrated at the finish by climbing onto the roof of his C4 WRC.

"When I started 10 years ago I had nothing and now I have four World titles. It's a very good feeling to win this year as I've had a very hard battle with Marcus all season. To win by four points is a really good moment for me."

Petter Solberg was next up in fourth for Subaru, albeit more than 1.5 minutes further back. The Norwegian had been hoping for better than P4, but just didn't have the pace to challenge for a spot on the rostrum.

Citroen #2 driver, Daniel Sordo came in fifth, posting eleven top-five times in total, his best in the final stage when he was third fastest.

Further down the order, Britain's Matthew Wilson was sixth to take points for the third event in succession. The Englishman went into the final day 10 seconds behind Chris Atkinson but got the better of the Subaru man on the very first test and then finished nearly a minute in front.

Atkinson struggled with handling problems on day 3 and while he was unable to keep up with Wilson, was far enough ahead of OMV Kronos Citroen's Manfred Stohl, to take seventh.

Subaru's third driver, Xavier Pons was ninth after a 'difficult' weekend and the Spaniard was disappointed not to have finished higher.

Jari-Matti Latvala rounded out the top ten and while he showed great pace, winning ten of the events 17 stages, the problems in the final stage on Friday, meant he lost too much time to add to his personal points tally for the year.

Of the rest, Mads Ostberg came in eleventh in his privately entered Impreza, followed by Skoda privateer, Jan Kopecky, Guy Wilks and Henning Solberg, who like his team-mate, Latvala, had problems in the final stage on day 1.

Wilks enjoyed a great outing in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer and in addition to finishing just outside the top ten, also won the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category and secured the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship crown.

In terms of retirees a number of drivers' failed to make it to the end, most noticeably Munchi's team leader, Luis-Perez Companc, who crashed out on the final day, as well as Andreas Mikkelsen, Conrad Rautenbach and Gabriel Pozzo.

Pozzo had been in contention to take the PWRC title, but he went out on day 1 and was unable to re-start. His demise handed Toshi Arai his second Production crown - to add to the one he took in 2005.

The FIA World Rally Championship now takes a break, before the new season gets underway in around eight weeks time, with the Rallye Monte Carlo, which runs from January 24-27.