Sebastien Ogier just has to complete the two kilometres of the Algarve Stadium superspecial to claim his first World Rally Championship win, having fended off Sebastien Loeb through the final two full-length stages.
Loeb has closed inexorably on Ogier through the second two days of the rally, but as had been the case on Saturday, the Citroen Junior man was able to halt the Citroen number one's charge on the second pass through today's loop of stages. Having taken 10 seconds out of Ogier's lead in the early morning stages, Loeb was only 3.6sec quicker than his rival on the second run so goes to the stadium 7.7sec adrift.
"I've tried all rally, but Seb Ogier was really fast," Loeb said. "We couldn't make up the gap."
Ogier was able to pull 46sec clear of Loeb on Friday as the championship leader ran first on the road and sat back in third place. But even when it was Ogier's turn to get the worst of the stage conditions on legs two and three, Loeb could not regain the lost ground.
"We lost a lot on the first day, maybe too much, and since then we've been struggling," Loeb said. "He is very fast on the second pass through the stages, and we cannot take much, even when he is first on the road. On the second pass through he was untouchable sometimes. I have a new rival now. It is over. Just one superspecial stage and we will take it easy."
Dani Sordo appears to have done enough to secure third in the second works Citroen, as he will take a 4.6sec cushion over Solberg Citroen driver Petter Solberg into the superspecial.
"In the middle of the stage, Petter was 2sec faster than me so I pushed very hard," Sordo said. "It is really, really nice to drive like that."
Ford's Mikko Hirvonen had been desperate to interrupt the Citroen one-two-three-four by at least salvaging a podium. But with his tyres fading and the car sliding, he backed off on SS17 and settled for fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen has now fallen from eighth to 10th in the second Citroen Junior car, having struggled badly with tire issues on the last two stages.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 3h49m04.2s
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 7.7s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m18.4s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m23.0s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m31.4s
6. Matthew Wilson Ford + 7m11.4s
7. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 7m26.4s
8. Federico Villagra Ford + 10m38.1s
9. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 10m55.9s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 11m35.2s