Autosport (UK) - - RALLY GB/WRC -

THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A PART OF THIERRY Neuville that was won­der­ing why he was both­er­ing. He gave it a go any­way, but 10 sec­onds be­fore he started the fi­nal stage, the Bel­gian was in­formed that his chance of this year’s World Rally Cham­pi­onship ti­tle had gone.

Ahead of the pow­er­stage, Neuville needed Ogier to set sixth-fastest time, with him bag­ging the full-fat five bonus points. When the #1 Au­tosport-liv­er­ied Ford Fi­esta WRC crossed the line a tenth of a sec­ond quicker than

An­dreas Mikkelsen, the deal was done.

“Lit­er­ally, I was just about to start the stage,” said Neuville (be­low), “but I gave it ev­ery­thing any­way. And we won the bonus points.”

But this cham­pi­onship was lost long ago. It was lost with mis­takes while lead­ing in Monte Carlo and Swe­den, or by the as­ton­ish­ing in­abil­ity to cap­i­talise on Ogier’s crash in Fin­land. It wasn’t lost on a run around Brenig lake on Sun­day.

What was es­pe­cially nice to see was Ott Tanak throt­tling back in SS21. Like Neuville, he had an out­side – like very, very out­side – chance of win­ning the cham­pi­onship, but the Es­to­nian took it upon him­self to slow down as the fin­ish line ap­proached.

“Seb de­serves this ti­tle,” said Tanak at the end. “It was the right thing to do.”

As for Hyundai’s ti­tle aspirations, they’d al­ready been blown away by M-sport’s dev­as­tat­ing record of plac­ing a Fi­esta on ev­ery podium this year.

Citroen is also well wor­thy of a men­tion here, with Kris Meeke and Craig Breen both show­ing pace at times. Given the change­able grip on this event, this was a gen­uine test of the Oh­lins sus­pen­sion and the con­fi­dence it would feed back into the driv­ers. There were no com­plaints. Yes, there’s work to do, but the C3 WRC is night and day bet­ter than it was at the start of the year.

Breen was un­lucky, drop­ping into a ditch in Hafren, but Meeke drove su­perbly with his head. He could – and prob­a­bly would in days gone by – have tried to force this one.

But it wasn’t his week­end, and he recog­nised that on his way to sev­enth.

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