Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville survived a battle of attrition on Rallye Germany, to take both his and the Korean manufacturer’s first World Rally Championship win.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier led the early stages of the rally in his Volkswagen Polo. But a mistake on Friday evening saw him sliding down a hillside. A long drive back to the stage meant he tumbled down the order.
Worse was to come, as Ogier suffered a heavy crash on Saturday morning. He and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were taken to hospital as a precaution and the stage was cancelled.
Ogier’s travails left his teammate, Jari-Matti Latvala, in the lead. Kris Meeke lay third in his Citroen.
Latvala spent Saturday building his advantage, but disaster struck on Sunday when he crashed out, getting stuck deep in a vineyard.
Meeke assumed the lead, but a few stages later he was out too, a front-left puncture sending him into a wall. That left Thierry Neuville out in front.
Neuville’s prospects for the rally weren’t looking good after he suffered a huge crash on the shakedown stage.
The Hyundai team rebuilt his i20 WRC in double-quick time and he set about making his way through the field. Various issues threatened to derail his rally, but as the leaders fell by the wayside, he found himself in the right place at the right time.
With only a few stages left to run and 35.7 seconds in hand over his teammate and 2013 Rallye Germany winner Dani Sordo, Neuville just had to keep his nose clean to take his first World Championship win.
He did just that, his margin at the finish a healthy 40.7 seconds over Sordo. It was a home victory of sorts for Neuville, with many Belgian fans making the short journey down to Trier. Equally, the Hyundai Motorsport team is based near Frankfurt.
Andreas Mikkelsen at least salvaged third place for Volkswagen, while Elfyn Evans achieved his best result so far with fourth. Mikko Hirvonen was fifth, with Mads Ostberg the only surviving Citroen in sixth.
Volkswagen’s woes mean they have yet to secure the manufacturer’s championship. However, despite failing to score, either Ogier or Latvala are virtually guaranteed to claim the driver’s crown.
The next round of the WRC is Rally Australia on 12-14 September.
Visit the WRC website here.
Rallye Germany top 10 finishers after 18 stages
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC — 3h07m20.2s
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC — +40.7s
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC — +58.0s
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +1m03.6s
- Mikko Hirvonen — M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +1m10.5s
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen WRT DS3 WRC — +1m22.7s
- Martin Prokop — Czech National Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4m52.8s
- Dennis Kuipers — M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +9m18.1s
- Pontus Tidemand — M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 — +11m35.4s
- Ott Tanak — Autotek Ford Fiesta R5 — +11m37.2s