Sébastien Ogier had secured the 2014 title by the time the season reached its climax in Wales, but there was no let-up in the Frenchman's determination to take another win.
And when chief rival Jari-Matti Latvala ignited a three-way podium fight by putting his Polo R into a ditch, Mikko Hirvonen, tackling his last rally before retirement, emerged as his main challenger. Here's our potted summary of what happened:
Friday 14 November
The VW duo of Ogier and Latvala dominated a slippery opening leg. Both claimed four stage wins and although Ogier was never headed, he was unable to shake off his Polo R team-mate and led by 6.6sec after eight muddy forest speed tests. Mads Østberg and Hirvonen fought over third for most of the day. The Norwegian held the advantage in the morning but Hirvonen moved ahead to finish 1min 07.2sec off the lead in his Ford Fiesta RS. Østberg became increasingly frustrated with the handling of his DS 3, and dropped to fifth in the final stage. Kris Meeke benefited from his team-mate’s struggles to climb to fourth. He was 7.7sec behind Hirvonen and 0.7sec ahead of Østberg. Thierry Neuville was sixth in a Hyundai i20. Fiesta drivers Elfyn Evans, Ott Tänak, Henning Solberg and Martin Prokop completed the leaderboard. Andreas Mikkelsen became the day's highest profile retirement when he stopped with broken suspension after hitting a bank while in second.
Saturday 15 November
Ogier ended the second leg with a comfortable lead of 58.1sec ahead of a thrilling battle for the remaining podium places. His advantage shot up when Latvala slid into a ditch in the opening stage and lost more than three minutes. Conditions in the forests were again muddy and Ogier took no risks. He set only two top six times over nine special stages. Latvala’s mistake left Hirvonen, Meeke and Østberg in a titanic fight for second. They swapped places in virtually every stage before Hirvonen claimed second, 3.4sec clear of Meeke’s DS 3. Hirvonen had control initially before Østberg overhauled both the Finn and Meeke to hold the advantage at the mid-leg service, when the trio were split by 1.4sec. However, Østberg received a 10sec penalty for checking in late at a time control and a delaminated tyre cost 15sec as he slipped to fourth. Hirvonen and Meeke twice traded positions before Hirvonen sealed the overnight advantage in the final test. Evans was sixth ahead of Tänak, with Solberg eighth. Latvala, who also broke a front right damper during his accident, recovered to ninth.
Sunday 16 November
Ogier ended the season on a winning note with his eighth victory of the year, measuring his pace through the final two legs to win by 37.6sec. Behind him Hirvonen claimed an emotional second place after holding off Meeke in a thrilling last day battle than ended when Meeke damaged two tyres after skidding into a ditch in the opening stage. The Northern Irishman continued at speed but, with just one spare wheel onboard, he lost more than 90sec in the final two tests and plunged to sixth. It allowed Østberg to take third, the Norwegian finishing 26.0sec behind Hirvonen. Østberg was under threat from Neuville but outpaced the Belgian to finish 11.3sec ahead of the Hyundai i20, securing second in the manufacturers' championship for Citroën. Welshman Evans delighted his home fans by relegating Meeke in the final stage to claim fifth. Tänak survived a final day puncture to finish seventh with a recovering Latvala, Prokop and Hayden Paddon completing the leaderboard.