Sebastien Ogier made up for his Mexico crash by winning the Rally of Portugal for a second consecutive year. The Frenchman led teammate Sebastien Loeb in a Citroen 1-2, with a variety of problems consigning the Fords of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen to third and fourth.
There had been nothing to choose between the top four in the first half of the rally, until Hirvonen suffered a puncture on Saturday morning and Loeb lost time running in his dust after the Ford rejoined. A driveshaft breakage then slowed Latvala later in the day, while Hirvonen was hit with suspension and driveshaft problems.
But even before his rivals stumbled, Ogier had looked a likely winner. After a slow start, he moved into the lead halfway through Friday and then relinquished it and dropped to fourth to give himself a better road position for Saturday. The plan succeeded and Ogier was able to charge back and reclaim the lead from Latvala prior to the Ford's problem. Citroen could then cruise through the final day to collect its one-two.
"I'm very happy with a perfect weekend," said Ogier. "I want to dedicate this victory to all the team because they prepared a perfect car and they trusted me even after the mistake in Mexico. This is the best way to come back."
Loeb now shares the championship lead with Hirvonen thanks to the three bonus points the Frenchman gained for being quickest on the rally-ending "power stage."
"I'm very happy with that. When I saw the rain this morning I didn't think I'd be fast in this one, but the conditions were not so bad, so I thought, 'OK, I have to try'," said Loeb.
Latvala clinched third, while Hirvonen coped with another suspension issue in the final few miles to hold fourth.
Matthew Wilson popped up to fourth a few times as Hirvonen had his various glitches, but the works car retook the place for good on the penultimate stage, leaving Wilson to settle for a still-pleasing fifth.
A depressing four punctures in a single leg on Friday ended Petter Solberg's time among the leaders. He ran trouble-free thereafter and flew back up to sixth, blasting ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (Ice 1 Citroen) and Federico Villagra (Munchi's Ford) during the final short loop.
"I'm very, very sad about the first day, it's unbelievable," said Solberg. "But I never give up."
Henning Solberg would probably have been out of his brother's reach and held on to sixth until a turbo problem on the last two stages caused him to plunge to ninth.
Dennis Kuipers completed the top 10 in the Ferm Ford. Stobart Ford's Mads Ostberg spent most of the weekend running under superally after a crash on Thursday's superspecial and then a gearbox failure first thing on Friday, while Ken Block did not even start due to a ferocious crash on the shakedown stage on Wednesday.
The S2000 version of the new Mini made an excellent debut, holding seventh with Armindo Araujo until a puncture and engine issue on Saturday afternoon.
Hayden Paddon had such a margin over the Production field that even a suspension breakage this morning had no impact on his dominance, while Egon Kaur won the first ever WRC Academy round after Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher both crashed while leading.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 4h10m53.4s
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 31.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 3m22.1s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 6m16.3s
5. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 7m48.5s
6. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 10m17.4s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ice 1 Citroen + 10m54.1s
8. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford + 11m38.8s
9. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 14m16.4s
10. Dennis Kuipers Ferm Ford + 17m54.6s
Other WRC finishers:
14. Khalid Al Qassimi Abu Dhabi Ford + 27m10.1s
22. Peter van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen + 39m39.6s
31. Mads Ostberg Stobart Ford + 59m29.4s
Bernardo Sousa Quinta Ford SS7
Ken Block Monster Ford DNS