Sebastien Loeb has won the World Rally Championship for a record-extending sixth time after claiming Rally GB victory.
The Citroen driver had arrived at the season finale one point behind Mikko Hirvonen and facing his toughest title battle in many years, but led the rally throughout.
Hirvonen (Ford) admitted he had been too cautious on Friday's opening loop, and mounted a comeback and cut Loeb's lead from 9sec to 2.4s by SS7. But then Loeb all but secured the championship with an incredible performance on the next two stages, where he extended his lead to a comfortable 25sec.
Hirvonen started closing in again this morning until his car's hood came loose and obscured his view on the penultimate stage, forcing him to stop and remove it, and leaving Loeb free to cruise to victory and the world championship.
"It has been an incredible season -- a very good start then we lost everything in the middle of the season," said Loeb. "It was big, big pressure and I'm really happy about this one because Mikko was really, really strong. It was an incredible battle all season."
Hirvonen was predictably disappointed to miss out on the title after coming so close.
"I need to get back to work and find more speed for next year," he said. "We are now really close to Sebastien and that feels good, but it's still a big disappointment in the end."
The Finn's late drama almost allowed Dani Sordo to complete a Citroen one-two, as the Spaniard closed to within 0.9sec of the Ford. But Hirvonen was 0.1sec quicker on SS14, leaving Sordo to settle for third.
Petter Solberg's self-run Citroen had an ultra-tight battle with Sordo until a windshield wiper problem left him struggling to see on the very wet Saturday morning stages. The former world champion could not close the gap after that and finished fourth.
Sebastien Ogier was on course for fifth for Citroen Junior until he crashed out on the penultimate stage. "I think the guys in front of me pulled some big rocks in the road and it was impossible for me to pass, so we went off because of that," he explained.
That elevated Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson to fifth and sixth. Both had quiet rallies once early rival Mads Ostberg (Adapta Subaru) sustained broken suspension.
Jari-Matti Latvala had a miserable weekend in the second Ford. A broken driveshaft on the first stage and the lack of a full service on Friday meant he only had three wheel drive for most of day one, and then he crashed after the finish of SS14 today, leaving him to limp through the final two stages with deranged suspension. He still managed to come home seventh, ahead of Citroen Junior's Conrad Rautenbach.
The third Junior team C4 of Aaron Burkart was heading for a conservative top ten finish until he went off and lost five minutes on SS14. The Junior championship frontrunner admitted he had lost concentration passing Ogier's wounded car.
Eyvind Brynildsen utterly dominated the Production class from the outset in his new Skoda and eventually progressed to ninth overall.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h16m25.4s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m06.1s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m07.1s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m28.1s
5. Henning Solberg Ford + 6m28.0s
6. Matthew Wilson Ford + 7m46.0s
7. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 12m11.9s
8. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 14m27.8s
9. Eyvind Brynildsen Skoda + 22m22.7s
10. Armindo Araujo Mitsubishi + 24m18.8s