Neuville wins in Monte-Carlo!
Belgian victorious in WRC season-opener
SS 13/14: Neuville rockets into Monte lead
Thierry Neuville grabbed the lead of Rallye Monte-Carlo by winning the opening two speed tests in a thrilling start to Sunday’s final leg.
He restarted this morning in third, 6.4sec off the lead, in his Hyundai i20. He firstly demoted Sébastien Ogier by winning the 18.41km La Bollene Vesubie – Peira Cava, and then relegated leader Elfyn Evans by going quickest in La Cabanette – Col de Braus.
The Belgian’s charge put him 4.0sec clear of Evans’ Toyota Yaris with a frustrated Ogier struggling to hold on in third, 11.2sec off the lead.
Conditions were cool and damp, with no and snow and ice, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Neuville.
“Not a good stage for us,” he said at the Col de Braus finish. “This stage isn’t made for a Hyundai. Our car is far too long and I have to go wide to turn into corners, but I tried to push. The conditions are tricky and I hope that compensates.”
Evans was second in both stages and the Welshman said: “Our run through the first stage wasn’t bad, but not perfect. In the next one I knew when I came to the end that I hadn’t had a great stage. It’s difficult to find the grip. I pushed in places but then you find yourself only an inch away from the barrier…..”
It was a tough morning for Ogier, who is chasing his seventh straight Monte win. The Frenchman was third in both tests in his Yaris and admitted he could not do more.
“Whatever tyres we put on the car, we’re not about to have the speed at the moment. I wasn’t perfectly comfortable and I will never push more than what I feel,” he said.
All three drivers had opted for the same package of three super soft and three soft tyres.
Esapekka Lappi finally managed to clamber ahead of Sébastien Loeb and claim fourth after an error by the nine-time world champion. Loeb went off in a right corner in La Cabanette and almost 30sec ticked by before spectators manhandled his i20 back onto the asphalt.
“Our tyres are completely destroyed and I had no grip at the front. I made a little mistake in a tight hairpin,” Loeb explained.
Lappi survived a lurid slide at the top of the Col de Turini in the previous stage and ended the loop 16.7sec ahead of the Frenchman in his Ford Fiesta. Kalle Rovanperä remained sixth.
Neuville wins in Monte-Carlo
Thierry Neuville seized a maiden Rallye Monte-Carlo victory on Sunday afternoon after a dominant display during the closing leg in the mountains above Monaco.
The Belgian, driving a Hyundai i20, won all four slippery asphalt speed tests to soar from third and win a see-saw opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 12.6sec.
Toyota Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier were powerless to withstand Neuville’s charge. Ogier, winner in Monte-Carlo for the past six seasons, overhauled overnight leader Evans in the closing test to claim second by 1.7sec.
Neuville ensured a maximum five bonus points by winning the live TV Wolf Power Stage by 0.016sec from Ogier, who took four points. Teemu Suninen was third in a Ford Fiesta to collect three points, Evans took two points in fourth and Esapekka Lappi took the final point in a Fiesta.
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