THE stage is set for a thrilling battle at Coates Hire Rally Australia after Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville seized a dramatic FIA World Rally Championship maiden victory at ADAC Rallye Germany.
Neuville led last year’s winner and now-teammate Dani Sordo in a 1-2 finish, delivering Hyundai’s first WRC win since joining the championship only this season.
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen finished third after teammates Sebastien Ogier and then Jari-Matti Latvala both crashed after leading in difficult tarmac conditions in the Mosel wine region. Kris Meeke in a Citroen took over the lead from Latvala on the final morning but then also crashed into retirement.
Hyundai’s result will be a huge confidence boost for Australia’s Chris Atkinson and Hayden Paddon of New Zealand as they prepare to join Neuville as team drivers at Coates Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 11-14 September.
It also ended Volkswagen’s run of 12 straight wins and stopped the German team winning the only event on the WRC calendar it’s yet to conquer, its home rally.
While Ogier and Latvala both left the Mosel without adding to their points, they remain 1-2 in the standings heading to the 10th round in Australia.
With Mikkelsen, they are the only drivers capable of lifting the drivers’ title in the four remaining rounds, while Volkswagen is set to wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship at Rally Australia.
With teams now preparing for Rally Australia, here’s what some had to say after Germany:
Elfyn Evans (M-Sport): “It always gives you a little boost when you manage to beat your team mate. Mikko [Hirvonen] didn’t make it easy and I’m sure he’ll be on the pace in Australia.”
Kris Meeke (Citroen): I’m really disappointed for everyone in the team, who have been working so hard to get results. But we showed that we were on the pace. We’ll have to start thinking about the next rally now.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “The team and Kris Meeke had had a perfect rally until this morning. We had wanted to be in position to take advantage of the slightest opportunity. Unfortunately, we were unable to grab it when it came along. Kris had a very good rally. After Finland, he continued to improve his pace. In Australia, he’ll be able to show us what he is capable of again.”
Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen): “The Rally Australia gives us another opportunity to secure the Manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen and to extend our lead in the Drivers’ Championship. We will show our fighting spirit down under.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen): As far as the championship is concerned, the gap to Sébastien remains the same. All I can do is try again to catch him at the next rallies and to help Volkswagen seal the Manufacturers’ title with races to spare in Australia.”