Neuville relieved by minimal points loss
Thierry Neuville admitted he was relieved to lose only six points to WRC title rival Sébastien Ogier as he struggled to get the best from his Hyundai i20 at last weekend’s Neste Rally Finland.
As championship leader, the Belgian started first on the road for Friday’s opening leg and he lost time sweeping the loose gravel stages.
This handicap, combined with a pace note mistake that caused him to miss a junction and swipe a tree, meant he plunged to 10th place at the close of the day. He did, however, manage to improve one position by Sunday afternoon and collect two championship points.
The 30-year-old secured an additional two points on the Live TV Power Stage, while Ogier – who finished fifth overall – failed to collect any bonus points in his Ford Fiesta.
Neuville’s final stage success allowed him to maintain a 21-point lead over Ogier at the top of the drivers’ standings.
“Road position really dictated a lot this weekend,” Neuville reflected. “Even without our mistake on Friday, I don’t think we would have been any higher up the classification.
“We have had to accept our limits and focus on completing each stage with no further trouble. The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier, which we did to the best of our ability.”
Ogier’s drive to fifth place was assisted by his M-Sport Ford team-mates, Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen, who were instructed to drop time – a move that allowed the Frenchman to improve his overall position.
Evans deliberately slowed his car in Friday’s penultimate stage to improve Ogier’s start position the following day, while Suninen checked into a regroup two minutes late before the Live TV Power Stage and incurred a 20sec penalty.
“There was not more possible for us this weekend. For him, it was not better – but he got help, first on Friday and then on Sunday,” Neuville told WRC.com. “Due to that he had a better road position. At the end we couldn’t fight with him.”
Event Highlights Neste Rally Finland 2018
Event Highlights - Neste Rally Finland 2018
Tänak credits team for Finland victory
Toyota driver becomes first Estonian since Markko Märtin to win in Finland
Toyoda backs Japan WRC round
Toyota boss eyes Japan return to calendar