Skoda's Juho Hanninen claimed his third victory of the year in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge after beating Andreas Mikkelsen in arduous conditions on the RACMSA Rally of Scotland.

The win earned him enough points to put him out of reach of any of his rivals for this year's drivers' title. He will be crowned officially after the next round, the FxPro Rally Cyprus.

Only nine drivers were classified at the finish as the fast pace of the rally took a brutal toll on the drivers and their machines.

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Guy Wilks returned to the fray after being forced out of Saturday's last two stages by mechanical failure to record the fastest times in three of today's four stages, a feat which was recognised when he was awarded the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy by Jimmy McRae.

Kris Meeke finished third for Peugeot although mechanical maladies had left him trailing by nearly two minutes as the day began.

As Hanninen looked to consolidate his lead over Mikkelsen without taking too many risks, Meeke was determined to get on the podium by overhauling the third-placed 207 of Thierry Neuville. Mikkelsen, meanwhile, was torn between a desire to push for the win and a duty to claim his team's first podium of the year.

Mikkelsen tested Hanninen's resolve by remaining within striking distance throughout the morning, while Neuville dropped back with a puncture and then made a mistake on the first 29.04km loop around Loch Ard, rolling down a steep incline. Hanninen won the penultimate stage to put nearly 20 seconds of clear air between himself and Mikkelsen, persuading the young Norwegian to opt for duty over valour in the final test.

"It was a fantastic finish to the season, a great weekend. It's been almost a perfect year and I'd like to thank the team for everything they've done," said Hanninen.

"Yesterday morning I was about 30 seconds behind the boys and not feeling like a champion, but it was like I started the rally again. I set some good times and the boys were a bit unlucky with the problems they had, but for us that made it much better."

Mikkelsen added: "This result means a lot for me. I came here hoping that we could make it to the podium; I'd never finished on the podium in the IRC before so that was the main target. We're very pleased to finish second, and also happy with the progress we're making with our tyres. We were trying out a new type of tyre and were very encouraged to see it perform so well."

Local hero Alister McRae thrilled the home crowd with some impressive times in his Proton Satria Neo, but he was also ineligible for the final score having missed most of Saturday through an alternator failure.

Team-mate Keith Cronin also restarted the event this morning but he slid wide, hit a stack of logs and broke a wishbone on the first stage. Tom Cave, the sole remaining Proton driver eligible for points, struggled with decreasing grip levels as the rain intensified and crashed nose-first in to a ditch on the last stage.

The three-way Group N battle between the Lancers of David Bogie, Euan Thornburn and Jonathan Greer that had raged throughout Saturday fizzled out as first Thorburn and then Greer ran off the road, both on the Loch Ard stages that were broadcast live on Eurosport. Bogie was eventually classified in fourth.

The retirement of Thornburn and Greer enabled Daniel Barry to finish in the top 10, a well deserved achievement after the Irishman had struggled throughout the event with a litany of technical problems.

Burcu ?etinkaya became the first female driver to finish an IRC event in the points although her Peugeot T?rkiye 207's gearbox became recalcitrant in the final stage. She took seventh.

Both the remaining 2WD Cup entries finished in the overall points. Siim Plangi finished his second IRC outing of the year in fifth place, even though his Honda Civic Type R had dropped on to three cylinders briefly during the morning.

Harry Hunt discovered that his Fiesta R2 had a cracked sump on the opening stage of the day but nursed it through to eighth overall. Hunt now shares the lead in the 2WD Cup drivers' title with one round to go.

The 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge now concludes next month with the FxPro Cyprus Rally, which runs from November 4-6.

Rally of Scotland - Top ten IRC positions (after day three)

1. Juho H?nninen/Mikko Markkula (?koda Fabia S2000) 2h01m07.4s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fl?ene (Ford Fiesta S2000) +25.5s
3. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Peugeot 207 S2000) +3m24.2s
4. David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Ralliart Lancer Evo IX) +12m01.3s
5. Siim Plangi/Marek Sarapuu (Honda Civic Type R) +14m39.0s
6. Eamonn Boland/MJ Morrissey Beaton (Ralliart Lancer Evo X) +16m38.8s
7. Burcu ?etinkaya/?i?ek G?ney (Peugeot 207 S2000) +16m56.1s
8. Harry Hunt/Sebastian Marshall (Ford Fiesta R2) +21m39.5s
9. Daniel Barry/Martin Brady (Ralliart Lancer Evo IX) +23m46.5s

Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers: Siim Plangi/Marek Sarapuu (Honda Civic Type-R)

Drivers' standings (after round 11 of 12)#

1. Juho Hanninen 62pts
2. Jan Kopecky 47pts
3. Kris Meeke 39pts
4. Freddy Loix 36pts
5. Bruno Magalhaes 30pts
6. Guy Wilks 27pts
7. Andreas Mikkelsen 21pts
8. Paolo Andreucci 18pts
9. Thierry Neuville 12pts
10. Mikko Hirvonen 10pts

Manufacturers' standings (after round 11 of 12):#

1. Skoda 120pts
2. Peugeot 87pts
3. M-Sport 40pts
4. Ralliart 30pts
5. Subaru 11pts

# Note: Best seven results count