Rally Germany: Thierry Neuville, Hyundai take maiden WRC win
|Sunday, August 24th 2014, 11:24 GMT|
Thierry Neuville took his maiden World Rally Championship victory, as well as the first for his Hyundai team, in an incident-filled Rally Germany.
Latvala had been in control of proceedings after his Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier retired from the rally early on following two crashes, the Finn pulling out a lead of 56 seconds over Meeke going into the final day.
Meeke then assumed the lead after Latvala buried his Polo R WRC in a vineyard on stage 15, before a faulty pace-note led to the Ulsterman's Citroen DS3 WRC hitting a wall at the very start of the next stage.
That left Neuville with a handsome 37-second advantage over Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo at the start of the penultimate stage, which he duly extended to 40s by the end of the day to seal his and his team's first WRC win.
It marked the end of an incredible recovery for Neuville after he nearly destroyed his i20 WRC with a series of rolls during Thursday's shakedown.
Behind Sordo, Andreas Mikkelsen was the only VW driver to make the finish in third, 17.3s adrift of the Spaniard, losing time with a spin on the final day at the very same place where Latvala crashed out.
Elfyn Evans was just five seconds shy of his maiden WRC podium, though the M-Sport Ford driver could take solace in taking three bonus points for a Powerstage win ahead of Neuville and Mikko Hirvonen, who finished 6.9s behind his team-mate in fifth.
Rounding out the top six was the sole remaining works Citroen of Mads Ostberg, who had struggled for pace during the entire rally. The Norwegian finished comfortably ahead of the Fords of Martin Prokop and Dennis Kuipers.
M-Sport's Robert Kubica was another high-profile retiree, the Pole suffering gearbox problem en route to the start of the Sunday morning loop of stages.
Bryan Bouffier in the third works Hyundai also failed to finish after throwing his car into the vines at the start of the final stage, having already heavily damaged it after contact with a rock earlier in the rally.
In WRC2, Pontus Tidemand stole victory from Ott Tanak on the very last stage of the rally. The Swede had held the lead earlier in the rally before dropping back with a puncture, before battling his way back to win on the final day by just 1.8s from Tanak.
Sebastien Lefebvre meanwhile took honours in the Juniors, beating home driver Christian Riedemann by a margin of 9.4s.
Leading positions: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Thierry Neuville Hyundai 3h07m20.2s 2. Dani Sordo Hyundai +40.7s 3. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +58.0s 4. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +1m03.6s 5. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +1m10.5s 6. Mads Ostberg Citroen +1m22.7s 7. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +4m52.8s 8. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford +9m18.1s 9. Pontus Tidemand M-Sport Ford +11m35.4s * 10. Ott Tanak Autotek Ford +11m37.2s * * WRC2