We saw a wild end to Rally Germany today.
At the end of an astonishing final day of Rally Germany that has seen two rally leaders crash, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul have claimed their first-ever WRC victory and the first win for the Hyundai i20 WRC.
Remarkably, the Belgians were lucky to even start the event having rolled six times at shakedown which resulted in the team working 19 hours to fix the car for Friday’s start. To add to Hyundai’s celebrations, team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti made it an impressive one-two for the Korean manufacturer in its debut year in the FIA World Rally Championship with the car. Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene finished third, the only Volkswagen crew to make it to the finish of the rally.
In the FIA World Rally Championship, Volkswagen crews continue to dominate, despite Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala retiring. The pair remain first and second with Mikkelsen third and it is now assured that a Volkswagen driver will clinch the Drivers’ title. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Volkswagen’s fight for a second consecutive title continues, the German marque now 167 points ahead of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team with four rounds remaining.
Latvala and Meeke crash out of the lead
Today’s route covered two loops of two stages over 74.60 competitive kilometres and looked set to see Jari-Matti Latvala claim his first asphalt rally win, which would also have put him firmly back in contention for the Championship title following the retirement of Ogier. However, the Finn went off in dramatic style in the opening stage, plunging through the vineyards and into instant retirement.
Kris Meeke then looked set to become the first Briton to win a WRC event since 2002 until he too crashed out on the first corner of the following stage when a misjudged pace note resulted in him hitting a wall and taking a wheel off.
Neuville races to victory
Neuville then became the third rally leader of the day and, with a 37 second advantage over team-mate Sordo, was in a position to control the pace to the finish. Sordo, who won the event last year with Citroën, finished 40.7 seconds adrift and, with Hyundai claiming the victory it has ended Citroën’s 12-year reign of winning Rally Germany and Volkswagen’s winning run of 12 events which began in Australia last year.
Mikkelsen, in his first full Tarmac event in the Polo R WRC, finished a fine third despite a spin in the first stage. M-Sport team-mates Elfyn Evans and Mikko Hirvonen battled to the end, Evans taking fourth by just under seven seconds after possibly the best performance of his career which culminated in him winning the Power Stage. Mads Østberg claimed sixth in the sole remaining DS3 WRC and Martin Prokop finished further adrift in seventh.
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now head to the other side of the world for Rally Australia (11-14 September), the penultimate all-gravel round of the series.
Rally Germany Results
1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul - Hyundai i20 WRC
2. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti - Hyundai i20 WRC
3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene - Volkswagen Polo R WRC
4. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt - Ford Fiesta RS WRC
5. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen - Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson - Citroën DS3 WRC
7. Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek - Ford Fiesta RS WRC
8. Dennis Kuipers/Robin Buysmans - Ford Fiesta RS WRC
9. Pontus Tidemand/Emil Axelsson - Ford Fiesta R5
10. Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder - Ford Fiesta R5
Sebastien Ogier leads the championship standings by 44 points over teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.