The forests of Wales had provided a real challenge for Loeb
France's Sebastien Loeb crowned another triumphant season with a come-from-behind victory in the Wales Rally GB.
The five-time world champion trailed Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala by more than two seconds going into the 19th and final special stage on Sunday.
But he produced a stunning performance in his Citroen C4 to beat the overnight leader by 12.7 seconds in the end.
The victory meant Citroen won the constructors title, dethroning Ford, who had won in 2006 and 2007.
Loeb's full winning margin only became clear after the finish, when a 10-second penalty incorrectly imposed for a false start in the penultimate special stage was erased.
But even that scare could not prevent the 34-year-old claiming his 47th career success. Significantly, it was his first in the mountains and forests of Wales.
Frenchman Loeb had already been crowned world champion
"This rally was very difficult," he said. "I didn't like it a lot, but I had a great battle with Jari-Matti and it is unbelievable to have finally won here."
Loeb sealed his fifth world championship in Japan on 2 November.
He had started the last day trailing Latvala by 7.3 seconds but soon set about trimming that lead as he set fastest times on the first two of Sunday's four stages, moving to within 1.4 seconds of the Finn, who was struggling running first on the slippery stages.
The Citroen driver then set the fastest time on the day's third test, a second run through the Rheola forestry, which looked set to give him a handy lead, only to be hit with an untimely penalty.
But in the final run through Port Talbot, a 20.1-kilometre stage, Loeb emerged with the best overall time in the closest finish ever to the British round of the World Championship.
A podium finish for Dani Sordo, over a minute behind the leading pair, was the vital factor that ensured Citroen took the manufacturers' honours ahead of Ford.
Though ecstatic, Loeb felt the officials had been wrong to hand him his earlier penalty.
Latvala was disappointed not to claim his second career victory, having won in Sweden earlier in the season, but was generous in his praise for his rival.
He said: "I tried the best I could. I could not have driven any better and in the end the best man won."
Petter Solberg took a solid fourth for Subaru after a fine run in his Impreza while Per-Gunnar Andersson was fifth for Suzuki, equalling his best result of the season.
Wales Rally GB result:
1 S Loeb (Fra) Citroen 2hr 43mins 09.600secs
2 J-M Latvala (Fin) Ford +00:12.700
3 D Sordo (Spn) Citroen 01:20.600
4 P Solberg (Nor) Subaru 01:59.600
5 P-G Andersson (Swe) Suzuki 04:04.100
6 F Duval (Bel) Ford 05:07.800
7 T Gardemeister (Fin) Suzuki 05:25.000
8 M Hirvonen (Fin) Ford 05:38.800
9 M Wilson (GB) Ford 08:13.900
10 B Clark (GB) Ford 09:53.100
Drivers championship final standings:
1 S Loeb (Fra) 122 points
2 M Hirvonen (Fin) 103
3 D Sordo (Spn) 65
4 J-M Latvala (Fin) 58
5 C Atkinson (Aus) 50
6 P Solberg (Nor) 46
7 F Duval (Bel) 25
8 H Solberg (Nor) 22
9 G Galli (Ita) 17
10 M Wilson (GB) 15
Constructors championships final standings:
1 Citroen Total WRT 191 points
2 BP-Ford Abu-Dhabi WRT 173
3 Subaru WRT 98
4 Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT 67
5 Suzuki WRT 34