Finish: Solberg's dream double

Petter Solberg survived the final stage in Wales to become the 2003 World Rally Champion. He took a crushing win on the Margam Park test to ensure he won the rally and took the title by a single point from Sébastien Loeb

Finish: Solberg's dream double

"Incredible," said Solberg, who beat Loeb on the stage by 11.1 seconds. "I've done it! Now I am the best in the world. I can't take it in yet; I was so focussed the whole day. I wasn't thinking about the championship because so many things could have gone wrong."

Solberg's earlier warnings of last-minute dramas proved justified as Colin McRae suffered a puncture halfway through the stage. A quick tyre change ensured the Scot kept his fourth place, but meant that Tommi Mäkinen could cruise to a podium in his last rally.

"I don't know what happened," said McRae, who says he won't be competing on next year's WRC. "I thought something was broken on the front but it turned out to be a puncture. I've enjoyed the weekend, but that's enough for me for the moment."

The retiring Mäkinen was delighted with his fairytale podium after an extremely trying couple of years at Subaru, but admitted that he too had come close to embarassment on the final stage.

"The result is unbelievable," said the Finnish legend. "But we had a huge moment at the midpoint of the stage. I got the news of Colin's puncture and I think I lost my concentration! We stopped just short of a big hole - it was very close. The last three days have been so enjoyable."

Loeb finally lost the rally by a healthy 43.6 seconds, but regretted the conflict of interests with his Citroen team, who asked him to back off after team-mate Carlos Sainz went out on Friday. With hindsight, McRae's fourth place in the team's third entry would have done the job for Citroen.

"It was very difficult mentally," commented Loeb. "Concentration was hard because I had to push for my own championship but at the same time be careful for the team to win the manufacturers' title. For me I would have preferred the drivers' championship, but I will try again next year."

So Citroen took the manufacturers' crown by 15 points from Peugeot, but Solberg becomes Norway's first World Rally Champion. He brings the drivers' title back to Subaru after it spent a year away with Marcus Grönholm.

"I never thought I would be back here as world champion after winning my first rally here last year," said Solberg. "I'm so happy for our team, and Tommi for his third place."

Petter Solberg (Subaru) 3h28m58.1s
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) +43.6s
Tommi Mäkinen (Subaru) +2m58.8s
Colin McRae (Citroen) +5m28.1s
François Duval (Ford) +7m16.1s
Freddy Loix (Peugeot) +8m06.5s

Loeb closes at the death
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