Thierry Neuville faced a final day dilemma of whether to risk all for victory at YPF Rally Argentina or settle for strong points to boost his FIA World Rally Championship challenge.
The Belgian started Sunday’s final leg as the outsider, in second place and 11.5ec adrift of longtime leader Elfyn Evans. Having trimmed the Welshman’s lead of more than a minute the previous day, Neuville faced the quandary of whether or not to duel with Evans.
He took up the fight and what followed was the third closest finish in WRC history, as the Hyundai i20 Coupe driver edged out Evans’ Ford Fiesta by just 0.7sec for a dramatic win.
He admitted the decision to chase the win was only made after the opening El Condor stage when he cut Evans’ lead to 9.0sec.
“The team asked me to continue pushing if I caught some time in El Condor, and I really pushed in the next Mino Clavero stage,” Neuville told wrc.com.
“This morning I knew there was a chance, but the stages would be slippery. We caught only two seconds in El Condor and I knew it was going to be tough, but Mina Clavero was the key.
“We pushed very hard there, the car was working really nicely. We made some small set-up changes before the stage and I just felt comfortable. The pace notes were amazing as well so I pushed and the time was great.”
He was more than eight seconds quicker than Evans to cut the deficit to 0.6sec ahead of the final test back in El Condor, where he sealed a dramatic last-gasp victory.
“I felt comfortable in the car, I had just done the best time and I was catching time, so I was sure we would be fast. The only concern I had was the tyres. They were in really, really bad condition when I started the stage and at the end I finished with nearly slicks so I knew it was going to be difficult.
“It was clear I wanted to finish the rally but at the same time when you start the last stage 0.6sec behind the leader, you have to give it a go,” added Neuville, whose win promoted him to third in the title race, 18 points behind leader Sébastien Ogier.