Belgium WRC: Neuville ends Hyundai's win drought in Ypres

Thierry Neuville boosted his World Rally Championship title hopes by scoring a memorable win on home soil at the Ypres Rally to end his and Hyundai’s victory drought.

The home hero has proved the class of the field as Rally Ypres made its debut on the WRC calendar, leading home a Hyundai one-two, 30.7s ahead of team-mate Craig Breen.

It was an emotional victory for Neuville in front of a huge home crowd, his first WRC win since the Monte Carlo Rally in January last year and the first alongside new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe.

The triumph also ended Hyundai’s victory drought since Ott Tanak clinched February’s Arctic Rally Finland. The Korean marquee had led the last four events only for reliability issues to snatch victory from its grasp 

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera, who won last time out in Estonia, snatched third from teammates Elfyn Evans in fourth, with championship leader Sebastien Ogier finishing fifth. 

Ott Tanak, the last of the WRC runners to complete the distance, was sixth after a puncture on Saturday ended his podium hopes. 

Neuville and Breen were the only top-line WRC drivers to have experienced Ypres’ challenging fast narrow tarmac roads lined by perilous ditches and they made the knowledge count.

The former event winners were embroiled in an enthralling dice on Friday, before Neuville took command on stage 4. From there, the Belgian took command scoring four stages wins on the bounce to open up 7.6s overnight lead. 

Well clear of the Toyotas, Hyundai told its drivers to hold station on Saturday. Neuville and Breen kept their cool through the afternoon and Sunday’s Spa-Francorchamps stages to record a championship-boosting victory.

“We had a lot of pressure coming here, but I felt quite comfortable all the weekend and I could rely on my team and the car,” said Neuville, who moves to tied second in the championship, 38 points behind leader Ogier. 

"It was a pleasure for me to give this first win to Martijn here in Belgium. It should have come earlier, but we were unlucky. It feels good here now.”

The final run through the stages, incorporating the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, began with Tanak pipping Neuville to the win on Stage 19 by 0.7s.

Third-placed Rovanpera extended his margin over Evans to five seconds as Ogier ended the test that finishes at Stavelot corner 0.2s shy of Evans.

Breen, Neuville’s nearest rival in the rally, elected not to take any undue risks and dropped 10.1 seconds but remained 17.5s ahead of Rovanpera.

The full five bonus points from the Power Stage were claimed by Tanak, who took out the final stage in style beating Ogier by 1.9s.

Rally winner Neuville picked up three extra points after finishing third on the stage in front of a vociferous home crowd. The Belgian celebrates with victory donuts at the finish.  

Rovanpera was fourth fastest while a ragged Evans secured the final bonus point in fifth.   

The stage was not without drama as 2C Competition Hyundai driver Pierre-Louis Loubet suffered a puncture five minutes into the stage.

Loubet, returning to competition after retiring yesterday, stopped and changed the front right wheel before going on to complete the stage. 

In WRC2, Jari Huttunen won the class despite having to complete the final stage without power steering. Championship leader Yohan Rossel claimed the WRC3 class. 

The WRC is scheduled to head to Greece next month for the famous Acropolis Rally from 9-12 September.

shares
comments

Related video

Belgium WRC: Neuville closes on win, puncture halts Ogier
Previous article

Belgium WRC: Neuville closes on win, puncture halts Ogier

Next article

Ogier appears set for Toyota Hypercar run in WEC rookie test

Ogier appears set for Toyota Hypercar run in WEC rookie test
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Prime

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Prime

How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Prime

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Prime

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Prime

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Motorsport.com went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Prime

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021