Thierry Neuville has stormed to victory at Rally Poland after his main rival Ott Tanak crashed on the final morning.
Tanak had taken the first stage of the day to hold a slender 1.8sec lead, but it all came unstuck on the following test. Still pushing, the Estonian clipped a bank and spun with the front of his Fiesta suffering heavy damage.
He completed the stage, but his Ford had to be pushed out of the stop control and into retirement with heavy damage to the radiator and turbo intercooler. With no service and two more stages remaining, his event was over.
Unaware of Tanak’s dramas, Neuville pushed on the same stage to easily set the fastest time. He only found out about Tanak’s issues when he finished the stage and saw his rival pushing the car ahead of him.
From that point Neuville could control things at the front as New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon moved into second place to give Hyundai a one-two ahead of the Ford of Sebastien Ogier.
“It was a closely fought battle this weekend, as it seems to have been for the past few events,” said Paddon.
“It was certainly a relief to retake the lead after Ott’s retirement this morning, as it allowed us some breathing space in the final stages. We could take it easy and relax – not too much – but enough to finish the rally calmly and to secure this great result.
“Our goal for the weekend was to outscore Seb, which we did, and we have closed the gap in the championship for the second rally in a row.
“We have to continue in this way but for now we can enjoy our third win of the season, and celebrate with the team who have worked so hard for this result.”
Second place for Paddon was a pleasing result for the Kiwi.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I am with this result. It feels like a win after the season we have had so far,” said Paddon.
“We have had some really difficult moments so to finish second as part of a fantastic team result is very special. It’s like a weight has been lifted.
“This morning’s final stages have required a lot of commitment to drive slowly and cleanly in tough conditions. We were focused on third place, but to take second, of course as a result of Ott’s misfortune, is an added bonus.
“We still have some speed to find compared to the guys at the front, but it sets us up nicely for Finland – and beyond.”
The final Power Stage saw the major points go the way of Jari-Matti Latvala ahead of Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen; Neuville was fifth.
In the championship fight Ogier is 11 points clear at the top from Neuville, with Latvala a further 37 points further back.
The next event on the WRC will be the crown in the jewel, the Rally Finland 27-30 July.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Final Stages
Final Results : Rally Poland
|1||T. Neuville||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2:40:46.1|
|2||H. Paddon||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+1:23.9|
|3||S. Ogier||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:20.8|
|4||D. Sordo||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+2:47.4|
|5||S. Lefebvre||Citroën C3 WRC||+3:11.8|
|6||T. Suninen||Ford Fiesta WRC||+3:16.8|
|7||M. Østberg||Ford Fiesta WRC||+3:39.6|
|8||E. Evans||Ford Fiesta WRC||+4:39.1|
|9||A. Mikkelsen||Citroën C3 WRC||+4:43.5|
|10||J. Hänninen||Toyota Yaris WRC||+4:53.7|
|1||M-Sport World Rally Team||259|
|3||Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team||153|
|4||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team||117|