Thierry Neuville is confident he can secure his first WRC drivers’ title in Australia next month, insisting he has the upper-hand over championship rival Sébastien Ogier.
The Belgian’s fourth place at RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España meant he lost the drivers’ championship lead to his French rival. He trails M-Sport Ford driver Ogier by three points heading into the title decider at Kennards Hire Rally Australia (15-18 November).
Crews start the opening leg in championship order and Neuville believes second on the road will give him an advantage as Ogier must sweep the worst of the loose gravel at the head of the field.
“I think it is better to be second and be just a few points behind,” Neuville explained. “If I get a problem then okay, he will be champion. But at least I think it is not the most uncomfortable position to be in and the gap is small, so it will be interesting.”
Neuville’s three-point deficit could have been reduced during the Live TV Power Stage in Spain last weekend, but his hopes of scoring extra points were extinguished when he broke the right-rear wheel of his Hyundai i20. He finished the stage sixth, just behind team-mate Dani Sordo.
The Belgian confirmed Sordo wasn’t ordered to slow down to help his own drivers’ championship bid, with Hyundai keen to hunt down as many points as possible in its fight against Toyota Gazoo Racing for the WRC manufacturers’ title.
“The objective was to push so we could gain positions as well for the fight in the manufacturers’ championship,” Neuville told wrc.com. “Of course, it would have been nice to have at least one more point and be only two behind Seb but we’re going to look forward to Australia, it is going to be intense and interesting.”