Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb came through the final three stages on Sunday to take the victory on the Neste Oil Rally Finland for the very first time.

Loeb, who said prior to the event that winning in Jyvaskyla was one of his targets this year, led from start to finish, grabbing the lead on Thursday night in the short Killeri super special.

In total the Frenchman won ten of the eleven stages on day 1 to establish a 14.4 second lead over pre-event favourite Mikko Hirvonen. On Saturday - the longest day of the event - it was nip and tuck between Seb and Mikko and it wasn't until the final loop that the four-time world champion finally inched further in front.

Going into Sunday's short finale, it was always going to be a bit of a formality, and while Loeb spun in the penultimate test, his 18.2 second cushion was more than sufficient to ensure he took the maximum ten points.

In the end he won by 9 seconds, and he now closes to within a point of taking the lead in the drivers' championship. He also joins an exclusive club as prior to this weekend only six non-Finns had won the event in 57 years - and only three non-Nordic drivers.

Hirvonen meanwhile kept Seb honest throughout and never gave up, but like last year, when he was battling with Marcus Gronholm, the 28-year-old just didn't quite have what it took to take P1.

Both however were very much in a class of their own and Chris Atkinson, who took the final spot on the podium, was more than 3 minutes further back.

Further down the order Dani Sordo opted not to try and push on the final leg for P3 and settled for fourth in the #2 Citroen C4 WRC car. Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and his brother Petter rounded out the top six, while Matti Rantanen was an impressive seventh in his privately entered Ford Focus. Toni Gardemeister took the final drivers' point in eighth for Suzuki, a solid start for the updated 'B-spec' SX4 WRC.

Britain's Matthew Wilson and Citroen privateer Conrad Rautenbach completed the top ten, while Jari-Matti Latvala finished well down the field after his error in SS3 on day 1. He did though scoop the final manufacturers' point, which was a small consolation for Ford.

Stobart Ford's Gigi Galli, Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson, Munchi's Ford WRT duo Federico Villagra and Luis-Perez Companc were the most notable retirees.

Full report and result to follow...



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