HOW THE TITLE WAS WON (AND LOST)
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.