SS21: Maiden WRC stage win for Neuville
Young Belgian fastest on Rally Mexico’s final superspecial
Thierry Neuville threw caution to the wind to go fastest on the final run through the Leon Autodromo Super Special for his first stage victory in the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia.
With the bulk of the leading drivers admitting to conserving their tyres through the stage ahead of the mammoth 54-kilometre Guanajuatito test, Neuville was less cautious, but also admitted to taking a minor shortcut to save precious time.
Chris Atkinson, back in action under Rally 2 regulations following his exit on Saturday afternoon, was second fastest. He said: “It was good to get a bit of a warm-up, to feel the car again. We’ve been changing a few things on the set-up, which wasn’t working so well in there because I couldn’t get into the corners.”
Petter Solberg edged Mads Ostberg in the battle to be top Norwegian in third place. “We had a good run, no major problems,” said Solberg. “There was a lot of gravel on one right-hander because people are cutting the corner but we’re not doing that.”
Behind factory Ford ace Jari-Matti Latvala, Rally Guanajuato Mexico leader Sebastien Loeb equalled Ostberg’s fifth best time in his factory Citroen, comfortably beating Paulo Nobre’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
Ott Tanak, who was ninth fastest in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta, said: “We were not fighting, just taking it easy because we need to look after the tyres for the long one,” said the Estonian, who was beaten by Nasser Al-Attiyah in their showdown.
Evgeny Novikov defeated Ken Block in their head-to-head after the American stalled at the stage start. As a result Novikov was 3.4s faster to close the gap between the pair to 34.4s in the battle for the final world championship point in 10th. “The car just stalled on me, I’ve no idea why,” said Block.
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