Neuville disqualified from Safari

Thierry Neuville has lost his eighth place in Kenya. Image: Dufour Fabien/Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville has had his eighth-place finish and world championship points haul from the Safari Rally Kenya Power Stage scrubbed for a breach of reconnaissance regulations.

Prior to being summoned to meet the stewards following the conclusion of the rally, Neuville conceded the manner in which round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship unfolded had left “a lot of frustration” in his camp, adding: “It is not good for our Championship aspirations but it is what it is.”

He retired on Friday after a bolt in the suspension’s top mount came loose and allowed the damper to move out of position. He rejoined under Super Rally rules to complete the Saturday and Sunday legs.

With the loss of nine points, Neuville slips from second to sixth in the title race in what is another unwanted blow to his hopes of challenging Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Kalle Rovanpera as the action switches to smooth gravel next – a surface the 22-year-old excels on.

On Sunday evening, Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe were informed of the decision by officials to disqualify them as “a person connected with the crew of car #11 travelled on or over the route of two special stages, after reconnaissance, without authorisation”.

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In his evidence, the Belgian is said to have “promptly admitted” that “he was aware of the identified person and that he had requested this person’s support in identifying specific concerns (areas where rocks had moved) in some special stages that the crew will be required to compete on.”

The official notification continued: “The driver presented an honest synopsis of the situation and apologized to the stewards for his lapse in judgement. The driver took the onus of responsibility for this infringement.”

The co-driver “highlighted the crew’s concern when it comes to the safe navigation of the challenging routes and how they perceive some ambiguity to what constitutes corner-cutting and the anti-cutting measures that the organizer was perceived to have introduced following reconnaissance.”

In closing, the stewards said they “acknowledged and accepted the honesty and feedback on the part of the crew and viewed that the crew may have been misguided in mitigating safety with actions that are in breach of the regulations”.

Despite the co-operation shown by Hyundai Motorsport’s leading crew, it was not enough to prevent them from being erased from the overall results.

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