Sebastien Loeb has closed to within four points of Marcus Gronholm in the World Rally Championship by clinching a third consecutive Tour de Corse victory.
After being left behind by the Citroens in Spain last weekend, Gronholm had been determined to minimise the damage to his championship situation by keeping Loeb under pressure in France.
Although Finn made a strong start by leading on Friday morning, Loeb moved from third to first by the end of leg one and proceeded to pull away, eventually winning by 23.7 seconds.
"For me, I couldn't do better than to win," he said. "After that it doesn't depend on me. I cannot do more. I'm happy about this result and it's two points less in the gap in the championship."
Despite his frustration at being unable to match Loeb, Gronholm was satisfied with second place.
"It's only two points (lost) and it's okay," he said. "I couldn't win, I had no chance this weekend. So it's good to be second and still leading (the championship)."
Loeb's teammate Dani Sordo won the final two stages and took a comfortable third position. He had run second early in the rally but struggled to match the two leaders' pace as day one progressed.
The main excitement of day three was the very close battle between Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and works Subaru driver Petter Solberg. Francois Duval's Saturday evening retirement had moved Latvala up to fourth, but Solberg closed inexorably during the final morning and started the deciding stage just three seconds behind.
Tyre damage then hampered the former champion in the stage and he had to settle for fifth.
"We had a massive vibration through the stage and it was very, very difficult to push hard," said Solberg. "But I'm very happy with the result, we learned a lot. Things have been working better through the rally."
Latvala was ecstatic to equal his career-best result.
"It's a fantastic feeling," he said. "I was so afraid because he was so fast in the previous stage. I lost a battle in New Zealand and I felt bad, but now we've got it back and I'm so glad about that.
"This has been my best rally in my career, I guess, because it was a big battle and Tarmac is very challenging for me."
All three Subarus finished in the points. Chris Atkinson came home sixth - despite a scare when he hit a large rock in the last stage - and Xevi Pons recovered from two punctures this morning to take eighth. They were split by Skoda privateer Jan Kopecky.
"We are pleased because we know this car doesn't have so much speed, but now we can see it's working from the beginning to the end without mechanical problems," said the Czech driver.
While Latvala's teammate Henning Solberg continued his asphalt education with ninth place, the third Stobart car stopped with a drivetrain issue in the penultimate stage. Matthew Wilson was still classified 12th under the superally system, but his problem allowed Dani Sola and the new Super 2000 Peugeot 207 to finish 10th on the car's debut.
Having rejoined via superally following his Friday morning crash, Mikko Hirvonen set several top five stage times this morning on his way back through the field to 13th.
But the highest-placed superally re-entrant was newcomer Alessandro Bettega, who had impressed by running ninth on his debut before putting his Ford Focus off the road. He eventually recovered to 11th.
The new Suzuki SX4 WRC retired from both legs one and two but Nicolas Bernardi rejoined the field for the following days and reached the finish despite further mechanical problems in the last two stages. He was classified 31st.
"It's brilliant for the team because it's our first rally and we can finish," Bernardi said. "For sure we have to continue to work on the car, but for a first event I think the car is not so bad."
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Loeb Citroen 3h28:31.5 2. Gronholm Ford + 23.7 3. Sordo Citroen + 44.3 4. Latvala Ford + 2:30.5 5. P Solberg Subaru + 2:42.1 6. Atkinson Subaru + 3:53.8 7. Kopecky Skoda + 8:02.9 8. Pons Subaru + 9:34.2 9. H Solberg Ford + 10:12.2 10. Sola Peugeot + 17:57.6