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Motorsport | Rallying

Thierry Neuville © Gallo Images

Neuville wins Rally Australia



Belgium's Thierry Neuville won the season-ending Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour on Sunday to clinch second place in the World Rally Championship.

Hyundai's Neuville mastered the slippery final stages following torrential rain to hold off challenges from Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala and Estonia's Ott Tanak to win by 22.5sec.

The Australian triumph added to Neuville's previous successes in France, Argentina and Poland and made him the most successful driver of the season in terms of wins.

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier had already won the 2017 World Rally Championship heading into the Australian leg but Neuville's victory ensured he finished as runner-up.

Neuville took the lead when Hyundai i20 teammate Andreas Mikkelsen retired after hitting a bank and puncturing two tyres on Saturday.

"This one is a special one and really goes to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport," Neuville said.

"We are not world champions, but we drove like world champions.

"There was a real opportunity for him (Latvala) to get the first place, so we had to resist in a clever way but not taking too much risk in the tricky conditions."

Latvala looked secure in second but crashed his Toyota Yaris into the trees in the final Power Stage after sliding wide on a fast left-hand corner in the Wedding Bells State forest.

The Finn's misfortune promoted M-Sport's Toyota-bound Tanak to second, 22.5 seconds adrift. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) claimed an unlikely third just under a minute back.

Tanak completed his M-Sport tenure with a solid performance before he switches to the Tommi Makinen-run Toyota outfit in 2018.

"It’s important to finish the season like this. It was quite difficult to think about this (finishing second) on Friday as I was not comfortable in the car," Tanak said.

Five-time WRC champion Ogier (M-Sport) completed the season with a low-key fourth in a Ford Fiesta after topping the Power Stage run in fine conditions.

"I can only tell you it was my last stage for 2017, that's for sure," Ogier tweeted.

"It was a tough weekend, we had quite some issues and we struggled a bit with our start position sometimes. Still it was a fantastic season for us."

Gearshift problems blighted his weekend and a timing error added to his woes on the final day with a 60sec penalty.

New Zealander Paddon capitalised on an error by Craig Breen, who rolled his Citroen C3 into retirement when on course for his best result of the season.

RALLY AUSTRALIA RESULT

1. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Hyundai 2:35:44.800
2. Ott Tanak (Estonia) Ford +00:22.500
3. Hayden Paddon (New Zealand) Hyundai 00:59.100
4. Sebastien Ogier (France) Ford 02:27.700
5. Elfyn Evans (Britain) Ford 03:05.600
6. Esapekka Lappi (Finland) Toyota 03:49.500
7. Kris Meeke (Britain) Citroen 22:58.400
8. Nathan Quinn (Australia) Mitsubishi 25:03.400
9. Richie Dalton (Ireland) Skoda 25:39.600
10. Dean Herridge (Australia) Subaru 29:52.300

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Sebastien Ogier (France) M-Sport World Rally Team 232
2. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Hyundai Motorsport 208
3. Ott Tanak (Estonia) M-Sport World Rally Team 191
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Toyota Gazoo Racing 136
5. Elfyn Evans (Britain) M-Sport World Rally Team 128
6. Daniel Sordo (Spain) Hyundai Motorsport 95
7. Kris Meeke (Britain) Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 77
8. Hayden Paddon (New Zealand) Hyundai Motorsport 74
9. Juho Hanninen (Finland) Toyota Gazoo Racing 71
10. Craig Breen (Ireland) Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 64
11. Esapekka Lappi (Finland) Toyota Gazoo Racing 62
12. Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Skoda Motorsport 54
13. Stephane Lefebvre (France) Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 30
14. Teemu Suninen (Finland) M-Sport World Rally Team 29
15. Mads Ostberg (Norway) M-Sport World Rally Team 29
16. Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) Skoda Motorsport 7
17. Pontus Tidemand (Sweden) Skoda Motorsport 4
18. Richie Dalton (Ireland) Richie Dalton 4
19. Eric Camilli (France) M-Sport World Rally Team 3
20. Stephane Sarrazin (France) Stephane Sarrazin 2
21. Armin Kremer (Germany) M-Sport World Rally Team 2
22. Jourdan Serderidis (Greece) Jourdan Serderidis 2
23. Ole Christian Veiby (Norway) Printsport 1
24. Yohan Rossel (France) Yohan Rossel 1
25. Bryan Bouffier (France) Gemini Rally Team 1
26. Kalle Rovanpera (Finland) Kalle Rovanpera



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