Sebastien Loeb led home a Citroen 1-2 finish as the Frenchman closed to within one point of Mikko Hirvonen with one round remaining.

Loeb, who led into the third and final day of the Rally de Catalunya leading after a commanding day two performance, needed only to win one stage – stage 15 – of the six on Sunday to clinch the victory, his first since Argentina in April.

While Loeb cruised to victory it was left to his fellow Citroen drivers to take the bulk of the stage wins. Loeb's Citroen works squad teammate Dani Sordo took his sixth stage win, while Petter Solberg, driving a C4 model for the first time, took three stage wins on his way to finishing fourth.

However, it was not a perfect day for Citroen.

Not only did Jari-Matti Latvala prevent the French marque from sweeping day three but it also saw Junior team driver Evgeny Novikov retire on stage 13.

For the second time. The Russian having retired already on the opening day, but re-started under the SuperRally rules.

Loeb took the win, 12 seconds ahead of Sordo, who turned in arguably his strongest performance of the year in his home event, enjoying what he described as “a very good weekend”. The third man, crucially, on the podium was Mikko Hirvonen.

“I’m a bit disappointed because I wanted second place but third keeps me in the lead of the championship,” said the Finn. “For the last two days I’ve driven at a safe speed, at a pace which was sufficient to keep Petter Solberg behind me in fourth. That was the sensible thing to do with the title in mind.”

In the Junior WRC, Hans Weijs took a commanding win aboard his Citroen C2, nearly five minutes clear of Simone Bertolotti in a Suzuki. German Aaron Burkart's fourth place was not enough to see him move into second in the championship, as the eight round J-WRC came to a close.

The main WRC series, however, continues to a final round at Rally GB on October 23-25.

“All I can think about now is going to Great Britain for the final round,” previewed Hirvonen. “I’m really looking forward to it because it should be a fantastic weekend. Whoever finishes highest there between myself and Sébastien Loeb will take the title, and what an exciting way to end the season that will be.”