The countdown to the 2018 WRC title decider at Kennards Hire Rally Australia is underway. We begin our preparations for the season finale by casting our minds back to 2017 and remembering a determined performance from Thierry Neuville.
Friday 17 November
Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen held a commanding lead at the end of the first day as he won five of the eight speed tests to move 20.1sec clear of the chasing pack.
The Norwegian was pushed hard by Citroën’s Kris Meeke early on, but the Briton’s challenge faded as he lost time with a small off on SS3 before being demoted to third by Neuville.
The i20 driver had been fifth after the first stage, but quickly powered up the order as he chased his target of finishing second in the championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala overcame a damaged diffuser on his Toyota Yaris to finish fourth, just ahead of Craig Breen.
Saturday 18 November
Mikkelsen’s hopes of repeating his 2016 victory in Australia were dashed as he hit a bank on the first run through the Newry17 stage and damaged two wheels. With just one spare, he limped to the finish and dropped to eighth.
That handed Neuville the lead which he set about extending. Winning the Welshs Creek test by 9.8sec helped the Belgian to carve out a 20.1sec advantage over Latvala, who predicted he had ‘no chance’ of overhauling his rival.
Meeke retired from third after breaking his C3’s right rear suspension. That promoted Ott Tänak into the podium places, while the second Citroën of Breen moved up to fourth.
Sunday 19 November
The final day brought drama as torrential rain turned the dirt stages into a mud bath. Neuville did his best to stay ahead but his lead was cut to 9.9sec by Latvala as the event neared its conclusion.
A win in SS19 gave Neuville some breathing space, but he still had to safely negotiate the rally-ending Live TV Power Stage.
Unfortunately, Latvala’s push came to an abrupt end in the final test as he clipped the inside of a left bend and retired in the undergrowth.
His error eased Neuville to victory and promoted Tänak into second. Hayden Paddon completed the podium after Breen rolled on SS18.
Newly-crowned drivers’ champion Sébastien Ogier finished fourth, with his M-Sport Ford team-mate Elfyn Evans fifth.
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