T.Neuville secures his first podium finish This time last year, the then 21-year old Thierry Neuville caused a sensation in Ypres by figuring as high as fourth overall on his maiden outing with the 207 Super 2000, although his run ended in ...
T.Neuville secures his first podium finish
This time last year, the then 21-year old Thierry Neuville caused a sensation in Ypres by figuring as high as fourth overall on his maiden outing with the 207 Super 2000, although his run ended in retirement. Twelve months later, the Belgian youngster was able to celebrate what was still only his third appearance in the car by taking Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg's colours to the third step of the podium.
An intelligently paced run from Thierry Neuville (22)
The finish line of the weekend's final stage was the signal for Thierry Neuville to express his joy at last: "Given the impressive entry list there was for this event, the idea of coming third was little more than a dream. There were more than 10 207 Super 2000s at the start, and I would never have imagined that mine would be the best-placed Peugeot at the finish." The Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg driver based his tactics for the two-day rally on trying to deliver a consistent, reflected display. "It only took a glance at the entry list to realise there was no way I was going to be challenging for victory given my limited experience. As a consequence, I decided to keep to a quick but safe pace all the way to the flag to minimise the risk of making a mistake, and to stick to that plan whatever happened." The early part of the rally saw Neuville emerge in fifth place in his 207 Super 2000, before completing the competition in a splendid third place: "I knew there was a possibility that the different incidents would help me improve my position, but I had no way of knowing that one of the victims would be my friend Kris Meeke."
Kris Meeke caught out by the Ypres Rally's infamous stages while leading
After taking an early lead, the Peugeot UK driver was battling hard to defend first place when he went off: "I wasn't going that fast. It was a pace note error. I had planned to give the entry into the double right-hander a wide berth before heading for the apex. But there was a smattering of gravel at that spot and, when I turned in, I found myself sliding wide instead. I clouted something on the side of the road and that sent me into a roll." Give that only the seven best results of each driver count in the final reckoning for the 2010 IRC crown at the end of the year, Kris Meeke is still in with a chance for the title, but he will need to be consistent and reliability on all the remaining events if he wants to keep his chances for the top prize alive.
Several other crews found out to their cost that the sides of northwest Belgium's roads are particularly inhospitable. Some of those to suffer were 207 Super 2000 drivers, including Stephane Sarrazin who fell foul of the event's pitfalls barely five kilometres into the first stage. "I knew the corner was going to be very slippery," relates the Peugeot 908 star. "It was marked in my notes, but the slippery portion actually started sooner than I had been expecting. I under-steered into a post on the outside of the corner, and that catapulted me down the bank on the other side of the road. My car was undamaged, but it was too far down the ditch for us to have a hope of getting it back on the road."
Other Peugeot drivers to suffer at the hands of the treacherous stages were former Ypres winner Pieter Tsjoen, who was fifth behind Neuville, and Burcu Cetinkaya who destroyed the Peugeot Turkey-backed 207 Super 2000. The second best-placed Peugeot at the flag was Bruno Magalhaes who came sixth in his 207 Super 2000. "The early part of the rally was very difficult," admitted the Peugeot Portugal driver. "The stages were new to me and I must say they took me by surprise. I'm not used to cutting corners to that degree, and it took me some time to adapt to the local custom!" The second day saw Bruno pick up speed considerably as he eased from 10th place to sixth spot at the finish: "Now I've got a feel for the event, I can't wait to come back next year..." In the meantime, the IRC regulars will be back in action in three weeks' time in the Azores Islands which will host the seventh of the competition's 12 rounds.