Bryan Bouffier ruled out of IRC title fight as Peugeot backs Thierry Neuville for Cyprus
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, October 30th 2011, 07:34 GMT|
Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier will not be among the contenders for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in next week's Cyprus decider after Peugeot decided to only send Thierry Neuville to the event.
Neither Bouffier nor Neuville had originally been expected to contest the finale, but their strong results meant they were among six drivers still in contention for the championship.
Bouffier is currently fifth in the standings, 21 points behind leader Jan Kopecky, but with double points on offer in Cyprus. Corsica and Sanremo winner Neuville is third, five points ahead of Bouffier, and Peugeot Sport's customer competition chief Frederic Bertrand said the firm had decided to prioritise the driver with the best title shot.
"Bouffier still had a chance to win the title, too, but we needed to favour our best-placed driver in the provisional standings," Bertrand explained.
"We would have liked to have done more, but we took a reasoned decision to enter and could only enter just the one car.
"We wish Thierry and [co-driver] Nicolas [Gilsoul] the best of luck. Their mission won't be easy, but they have to keep their challenge going all the way."
Neuville admitted that he would be an underdog in Cyprus given his limited gravel experience.
"Given the little experience I have on gravel, I won't be the favourite, but I don't see that as a problem," said Neuville. "I will take my time to familiarise myself with the stages and then gradually up my pace.
"The outcome isn't entirely in my hands, and I'm expecting it to be a tough rally with plenty of incidents. I will do all I can to stay out of trouble and, if I succeed, the title just might be possible."
Skoda driver Kopecky holds a six-point lead over his team-mate and reigning champion Juho Hanninen, who recently won the World Rally Championship's S2000 class title as well, at the head of the standings.
Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda UK) and Freddy Loix (BFO Skoda) are the other championship contenders heading to Cyprus, 20 and 28 points behind Kopecky respectively, with 50 on offer for the rally win.