Sebastien Ogier sealed his second World Rally Championship title with a round to spare with victory in an eventful Rally of Spain.
Knowing that outscoring title rival Jari-Matti Latvala in Spain would be enough to put the championship out of the Finn's reach, Ogier immediately capitalised of running first on the gravel leg of the only true mixed surface rally on the calendar.
As his rivals struggled with visibility in the dusty conditions that prevailed on Friday, Ogier opened up a 36.6-second lead over his struggling Volkswagen team-mate Latvala on Friday.
But, fresh from securing his first win on asphalt in France, Latvala came alive on the second day of the rally when the event switched to sealed surface roads, closing the gap to 27.3s with a brace of stage wins on Saturday.
Latvala kept up the pressure on the final day, winning all four stages on Sunday morning to narrow Ogier's lead by 16 seconds, but the Frenchman remained in control - ending the power stage finale with 11.3s still in hand over Latvala to take his seventh win of the year and a second title.
The two title protagonists were in a class of their own for much of the rally, as several drivers' hopes of challenging for victory faded early on.
Kris Meeke was firmly in the hunt after winning SS2 on Friday, but a double puncture on the very next stage ended his hopes of scoring points, the Citroen driver carrying only one spare.
After rejoining under Rally 2 rules, Meeke did manage to salvage two points from the power stage with the second quickest time through the final test behind Latvala.
Suffering a similar fate to Meeke was Thierry Neuville, who had closed to within five seconds of leader Ogier before losing two and a half minutes with a puncture on SS6.
Those problems allowed a rapid Mikko Hirvonen to move up to third on Saturday morning, a position the Finn would maintain to the end of the rally after Andreas Mikkelsen dropped down to seventh with a puncture of his own on SS11.
Hirvonen was the only one of M-Sport's three works entries to score, as Elfyn Evans crashed out of the rally on Friday, while Robert Kubica took a wheel off his Ford Fiesta RS WRC with a mistake on Saturday, having already lost ground with a differential problem.
Mads Ostberg finished a distant fourth to claim vital manufacturers' points for Citroen, just ahead of Dani Sordo, whose hopes of a podium finish on his home rally went up in smoke when he lost over 30 seconds waiting on the start line of SS6 for co-driver Marc Marti's signal to begin.
Neuville brought his Hyundai home sixth, although Mikkelsen would have taken the place if it not for a 10 second penalty awarded for starting the final stage a minute late. The Norwegian did however pick up a bonus point for the third quickest power stage time.
Completing the points scorers were Martin Prokop, Haydon Paddon - who ran as high as third early on after his first ever WRC stage win before losing nearly six minutes on SS4 damaging his Hyundai - and WRC2 class winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, who inherited the final point after Ken Block suffered a puncture on the final stage of the rally.
Final positions: Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen 3hr46m44.6s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen +11.3s 3. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +1m42.2s 4. Mads Ostberg Citroen +2m13.3s 5. Dani Sordo Hyundai +2m22.2s 6. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +4m01.0s 7. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen +4m02.9s 8. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +8m06.8s 9. Haydon Paddon Hyundai +9m12.4s 10. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford +12m39.8s*
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