Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen clinched the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title with a commanding victory in the double points finale in Cyprus.
Mikkelsen escaped a late scare when he picked up a rear puncture on the opening stage of the final loop, but with title rival Jan Kopecky getting a front puncture on the same rock and losing even more time, Mikkelsen's lead was not in jeopardy.
It could have been a different story had Nasser Al-Attiyah still held second place, but an engine issue on his Autotek Ford prevented the Dakar winner from leaving the midday service, taking any remaining pressure off the leader.
Mikkelsen, who had been a distant seventh in the IRC standings at midseason, made the most of a scoring system that only counts the seven best scores and offers additional points at the last two rounds to surge into title contention in the latter part of the season, finally taking his first win in Scotland last month. He battled for victory with fellow championship contender Thierry Neuville through the opening stages in Cyprus, before a puncture delayed the Belgian and then an alternator issue forced him out, ending his title bid.
Mikkelsen was then free to control the rest of the rally to win by 1m40s over long-time championship leader Kopecky's Skoda.
Former Junior World Rally champion Patrik Sandell (Skoda Sweden) took his first IRC podium in third, defeating title contender Freddy Loix (BFO Skoda), who never managed to get fully up to speed on his first rally on gravel in almost three years, and was then slowed by engine problems over the final stages, dropping him to fifth behind Karl Kruuda's ME3 Skoda.
Outgoing IRC champion and 2011 S2000 WRC title-winner Juho Hanninen (Skoda) was the other man fighting for the crown this weekend, but he crashed out early on the first full-length stage on Friday morning and was too far behind to feature when he re-entered for Saturday.