Eyes on the prize: Thierry Neuville
As the WRC moves into the last three rounds of another epic season, wrc.com spotlights the three drivers still in with a title shot. Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville sits third in the points ahead of Wales Rally GB, so we start with the Belgian.
Like rivals Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier, Neuville isn’t short on experience in Britain, RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España and Kennards Hire Rally Australia. He has competed in Britain seven times, started in Spain eight times and been Down Under on six occasions.
Over the last three years, Neuville’s 2016 campaign has been the most consistent, taking third place at each of the final three rounds.
A year on and retirement in Spain did little to enhance his title chances. The i20 suffered hydraulic issues early in the rally and Neuville eventually went off while risking everything to keep his hopes alive.
Second in Wales was topped by a win in Australia, taking control of the 2017 Coffs Harbour-based event after team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen lost the lead with a puncture.
Last season was Neuville’s strongest yet. He led at the halfway point and took a 13-point lead into the last three events.
Sliding into a ditch in Hafren dropped him from second to fifth in Britain, but it was Salou where he relinquished the lead. A roll at shakedown was an ignominious start to an event where he never appeared to settle.
Landing in Australia, he was three points behind Ogier but was ahead of the Frenchman when a puncture in Sherwood cost him the thick end of a minute and effectively settled the matter in favour of the defending champion.
Thirty points down this time, Neuville knows he’s the underdog and must put everything on the line to win the last three rallies. He can do that. He has the pace, experience and ability necessary and the i20 is an ever-more potent force under Andrea Adamo’s management.
But he’s still 30 down. That said, 30 points is a perfect rally: victory and a five-point Wolf Power Stage win. A result like that in Wales, allied to a troubled trip to the Principality for his two rivals, and Neuville could sit as joint leader going into the penultimate round.
Don’t dismiss it. In a season like this, anything is possible.
Next up: Sébastien Ogier
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