Wednesday | 18 Nov 2015

Wales driver report: Part 1

In the first of a two part summary, we analyse how the top drivers fared on the season finale Wales Rally GB.

Thierry Neuville. Hyundai i20 [above]
Rested from the pressures of the main Hyundai squad, Wales should have been a bit of a holiday for Neuville - a chance to kick back and rediscover the fun of driving a World Rally Car with no responsibility. Instead it was a bit of a disaster. He spun on the opening stage and retired on the third when he lost a wheel after the hub studs sheared off. Back on Saturday he set two fastest times before crashing heavily on SS11 and damaging the roll cage. Game over and the end of a season Neuville will be keen to forget.

Martin Prokop. Ford Fiesta RS
After a solid seventh in Spain, Prokop was hoping for a strong end to the season. Instead he collected his third DNF of the year. He started well enough, but dropped from eighth to 11th on Friday when broken suspension left him with front-wheel drive only. Things got worse on Saturday when a wrong turn after SS12 led to a head-on collision with the Hyundai of Hayden Paddon, the Kiwi turning back after making the same mistake. A broken radiator ended Prokop's day on the spot. He rejoined on Sunday to complete the route but withdrew before the finish control.

Lorenzo Bertelli. Ford Fiesta RS
Tenth in Wales netted the Italian a championship point - or 50 per cent of his 2015 total. More importantly, he rounded off his debut season in the World Rally Car class with a reliable, trouble-free run in some extremely challenging conditions. With nothing confirmed for 2016 it's a positive indication of his progress and couldn't have come at a better time.

Dani Sordo. Hyundai i20
Sordo got off to a great start as the fastest of the four Hyundai entires and by SS9 he was up to fourth overall, mixing it with the Volkswagens and Hyundai's championship rivals Citroën. He dropped two places in a costly SS10 when a gearbox problem caused a stall at a hairpin and he later collided with a bank as he pushed over the limit to make up the time. Sixth place became fifth when Østberg hit trouble on Saturday, and he was able to come off the gas after Tänak went off on Sunday morning, gifting him fourth again and a positive finish to his season. 

Sébastien Ogier. VW Polo R
Another peerless performance from the world champ who led from beginning to end. But this wasn't an easy event for the Frenchman or his co-driver Julien Ingrassia, both of whom were shocked and upset by the terror attacks in Paris on Friday. He pushed on regardless, saying it was "a symbolic gesture that we must not give up or give in." For once there was no last stage push on the Power Stage. Instead he took victory with the minimum of fuss and respectfully dedicated the result to the victims of the attacks.

Elfyn Evans. Ford Fiesta RS
As usual at stage ends Elfyn offered numerous bleak assessments of his performance but actually there were plenty of positives for the Welshman to take from what could be his last outing with M-Sport. He started well, best of the rest behind the leading pack, but  lost touch with the podium when he plunged to ninth after a puncture on SS4. Thereafter he embarked on a spirited salvage mission, with the highlight of second fastest through the night pass of Aberhirnant (SS11). His fightback netted sixth place but without the puncture it could have been fourth.

Stéphane Lefebvre. DS 3 World Rally Car
A dose of 'flu left Lefebvre feeling weak for the opening two days and he deserves credit just for getting through them in one piece. He was lucky to survive a spin on Friday, but otherwise had a reliable run to eighth, achieving his pre-event objective of more experience at the sport's top level. This surely won't be the last time we see him at the wheel of a DS3 World Rally Car.

Andreas Mikkelsen. VW Polo R
Another fine podium performance for Mikkelsen - on an event he wasn't certain to start. An 11th hour dash to Germany for a medical check ruled him out of the pre-event Shakedown and threatened his participation in the rally at all. After getting the all clear from the team doctor Mikkelsen started as planned but without a pre-event test it took a few stages to find his groove. His fight with Meeke for second was harmed by a rock strike and puncture on Saturday's second test, and his gamble on one spare tyre for the loop meant a cautious approach for the next five stages. Played it safe thereafter.

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