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WRC – Neuville Clinches Fourth Victory Amid Dramatic Finale


Rally Australia - Sunday

Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul clinched their fourth 2017 FIA World Rally Championship victory today, the Hyundai crew winning Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds. Last minute drama struck for Jari-Matti Latvala when he went off in the final stage, elevating Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja into second with Hayden Paddon and Sebastian Marshall moving into a surprise podium position, again for Hyundai.

“This win is a special one, it goes to the whole team, they have worked so hard,” said a delighted Neuville. “It wasn’t always easy but we kept the motivation high. We round off the year with a win and second in the Championship. Thanks to everyone in the team both here and at the factory, great job guys.”

In the FIA World Rally Championship, Neuville’s win was enough to secure him and Gilsoul second in the Championship standings behind Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Tänak and Järveoja finished their best season to date third in the series. The Manufacturers’ Championship was already wrapped up by M-Sport in Wales last time out, but Hyundai is confirmed as second with WRC returnees Toyota third and Citroën fourth.

In a change to the afternoon itinerary, the second passage of Pilbara Reverse was cancelled. Monsoon-like rain during the morning made the road conditions too treacherous so the crews headed straight from service to the all-important Power Stage. Neuville’s lead was sufficient to control the field and the Belgian was only eighth fastest through Wedding Bells, irrelevant in the face of his fourth win on three continents. Latvala was on course to finish the season on a high in second position, but the Finn went off on a long left-hander and into the trees where his rally abruptly finished.  Tänak therefore inherited second, took second in the Power Stage and claimed his eighth podium of the season in his last outing in the Fiesta WRC. Hayden Paddon was an unexpected third and the Kiwi is glad to put what has been a difficult season behind him.

Ogier eventually finished fourth and picked up maximum points on the Power Stage too. What the Frenchman plans for the 2018 season remains unknown: “For now I can only say that was my last stage for 2017,” he said. “Now we look forward to the FIA Prize-Giving and collecting the trophy.”

Elfyn Evans was unable to carry his Rally GB-winning pace onto the Australian gravel but the Welshman finished fifth ahead of Esapekka Lappi, who ended up the sole Toyota finisher. It was a steep learning curve for the Finn, power steering issues on the first day hampering his charge and then opening the road on Saturday and Sunday. After retiring yesterday, Kris Meeke returned and finished seventh under Rally 2 regulations. Kalle Rovanpera, the sole FIA WRC 2 Championship contender, steered his Fiesta R5 through most of the rally, only missing last night’s two super special stages. He finished 12th overall.

The 2017 FIA World Rally Championship has delivered on all levels. The dynamic new cars have been spectacular and sparked record attendances at events season-long, and the return of Toyota further emphasised the dawn of a new era in world rallying. Competitively, the season has been the closest and most unpredictable in years, again underlining the success of the regulation changes. Seven different crews have stood on the top step of the podium over the 13 events, no fewer than three of them being rookie WRC winners, and each of the four manufacturers have sealed at least two victories. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia may have clinched their fifth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship titles, but it was no easy feat for the Frenchmen who only won two events, a stark contrast to their domination of previous years. M-Sport, having taken five wins and had at least one car on the podium on every event, won its first manufacturers’ title too, notwithstanding victories with Ford in 2006 and 2007. Beating three of the world’s largest car companies was a remarkable achievement by the private British-based squad. 

The season may have drawn to a close Down Under, but the focus is already on the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship which kicks off with the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo on 25 January.

Rally Australia – Final Unofficial Results (subject to scrutineering)

1.   Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2hr 35min 44.8sec

2.   Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 36min 07.3sec

3.   Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

2hr 36min 43.9sec

4.   Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 38min 12.5sec

5.   Eflyn Evans / Daniel Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

2hr 38min 50.4sec

6.   Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

2hr 39min 34.3sec

7.   Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle

Citroën C3 WRC

2hr 58min 43.2sec

8.   Nathan Quinn / Ben Searcy

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX

3hr 00min 48.2sec

9.   Richie Dalton / John Allen

Škoda Fabia R5

3hr 01min 24.4sec

10. Dean Herridge / Samuel Hill

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

3hr 05min 37.1sec


The provisional list of 2017 FIA World Rally Championship winners are:

FIA World Rally Champions                
Sébastien Ogier (FRA)
Julien Ingrassia (FRA)

FIA World Rally Champion for Manufacturers        
M-Sport (GBR)

FIA WRC 2 Champions                    
Pontus Tidemand (SWE)
Jonas Andersson (SWE)

FIA WRC 2 Champion for Teams                
Škoda Motorsport (CZE)

FIA WRC 3 Champions                    
Nil Solans (ESP)
Miguel Ibañez (ESP)

FIA WRC 3 Champion for Teams                
ADAC Sachsen E.V.

FIA Junior WRC Champions                
Nil Solans (ESP)
Miguel Ibañez (ESP)

FIA WRC Trophy winners                
Jourdan Serderidis (GRC)
Frederic Miclotte (BEL)

FIA RGT Cup winners                    
Romain Dumas (FRA)
Denis Giraudet (FRA)

Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA