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.
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.”