Australia debrief: Part two
We continue our review of Kennards Hire Rally Australia with four more significant moments and achievements.
Save of the rally: Thierry Neuville
Neuville probably didn't consider himself too lucky when his Hyundai rolled to a halt on the way to shakedown with an oil leak, but the early discovery of this potential engine-wrecker turned out to be a huge stroke of luck.
Had it happened the next day, Neuville would have stopped en route to Pilbara, and would have been looking - at best - at Rally 2. As it was, he lost a couple of hours in service while the crank trigger system was fixed, before flying to the fastest time at shakedown and the rally win three days later. Bullet neatly dodged.
Stage of the rally: Stage 18
The arrival of short, sharp and extremely localised rain showers on Sunday's Bucca test gave the rally a proper eleventh-hour shake-up. Early cars got through almost unscathed, but the lead pack, running further down the order, were hit by monsoon-like conditions described by Kris Meeke as "hellish and absolutely horrendous".
The rain had the effect of slashing the gaps between the top-three drivers by around 50 per cent. Neuville's rally lead over Latvala slimmed from 19sec to 9sec, while third-place Tänak was just 11sec further back - down from 23sec after the previous stage. There was more churn when Breen rolled out of fourth place, promoting a surprised Paddon into podium contention.
Turning Point of the Rally: Andreas Mikkelsen's retirement
Saturday, Stage 10, and Mikkelsen was looking more and more comfortable in his position as rally leader. And then the wheels - well, actually the tyres - came off his challenge when he slid wide and clouted a bank.
The Norwegian wasn't the only front-runner to hit trouble following erratic wheel tracks in the mud (although his bank swipe came earlier in the stage) but his exit shook up the top three and, ultimately, promoted rally winner Neuville into his eventual finishing position.
You’ll Never Believe it: Kalle Rovanperä
On paper at least, the WRC progress of Rovanperä Jr, the son of former WRC favourite Harri, is meteoric. He turned 17 on 1 October, passed his driving test on 2 October and started his first ever WRC event in Great Britain just 25 days later.
With Rally GB done, it was time to travel down under, where he bagged a maiden WRC 2 win at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5. Okay, the odds on a maiden category success for Kalle [below] were always pretty good: he was the only starter in the WRC 2 class. But a maximum 25 points on only his second rally? Hats off, Kalle.
Nandan calls for consistency
Mistakes ruined Hyundai’s title challenges
Australia debrief: Part One
We look back at the season's final round