Frenchman Sebastien Ogier won the Rally of Australia on Sunday but his push for a first FIA World Rally Championship title will have to wait until the next leg in France.
The Volkswagen driver won 19 of the event's 22 stages, including the Power Stage, and finished with a margin of 1m32s over Thierry Neuville of Belgium for his sixth tour victory of the season.
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen finished the rally in third, 2m02.1s behind the winner.
Ogier, 29, was dominant throughout, but his title celebrations were put on ice when a final stage puncture for Hirvonen cost him second place and elevated Thierry Neuville to runner-up.
The extra points for Neuville, allied to two bonus points for taking second in the final Power Stage, meant Ogier fell just mathematically short of the title after four days of gravel competition covering 352.36km on the Coffs Harbour coast of New South Wales.
“The team told me at the finish line that I had missed the title by one point because Mikko had a problem. I tried my best,” Ogier said.
“The most important thing is that we did another perfect rally and we thought it was okay for the title, but it can't be written down yet.”
Ogier now has three rounds remaining in which to secure the world crown.
“When you do a perfect job like that you expect to get it, but it's going to happen soon,” he said.
Hirvonen, of Finland, suffered a flat left-rear tyre on his Citroen DS3 on the 29.44km second pass through the Shipmans stage.
Neuville's unexpected last-stage ascension in the points standings was enough to deny Ogier's the world championship, which now must wait until round 11 in France on October 3-6.
Hirvonen was mystified by his mishap.
“I have no idea. I honestly have no idea why we had a puncture - we were in the middle of the road the whole stage,” he said. -AFP
RALLY AUSTRALIA - TOP 10 RESULTS
1. Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo) 3:19:55.000
2. Thierry Neuville (Ford Fiesta) +01:32.100
3. Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen DS3) 02:02.100
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo) 02:57.400
5. Mads Ostberg (Ford Fiesta) 03:17.200
6. Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo) 03:37.600
7. Evgeny Novikov (Ford Fiesta) 07:31.200
8. Nathan Quinn (Mini Countryman) 13:10.200
9. Khalid Al Qassimi (Citroen DS3) 15:17.600
10. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari (Ford Fiesta) 17:27.700
1. Sebastien Ogier - 212 points
2. Thierry Neuville - 129 points
3. Jari-Matti Latvala - 110 points
4. Mikko Hirvonen - 103 points
5. Dani Sordo - 96 points