2017 Kennards Hire Rally Australia: Neuville Secures fourth win And Second place In Championship Standings

by Steven Batey

Thierry Neuville won the Kennards Hire Rally Australia to secure second position in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship standings.

The Hyundai driver continued where he left off on Saturday, overcoming horrendous weather conditions in the process, and took the win the final round of the season by 22.5 seconds ahead of Ott Tänak and Australian driver Hayden Paddon to seal second in the standings behind Sebastian Ogier.

As day three began, Toyota’s JariMatti Latvala lay second in the overall leaderboard but it would all go wrong for the Finn in his pursuit of Neuville.

Photo Credit: @Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

The pair were battling at the front with Latvala at one point on stage 18 cutting the lead from 19.0 to 9.9 seconds, however Neuville then responded with a fastest stage time on the run through the Wedding Bells stage.

Stage 20 was then cancelled due to the severe weather hitting the New South Wales forests, enabling Neuville to be able to cruise through the final ‘power’ stage of the season. Latvala’s chase ended in disaster as he crashed the Yaris WRC on the last stage of the rally.

Photo Credit: @Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

With Latvala out, this promoted his to-be teammate in 2018 Tänak into second on his last appearance for M-Sport. Second also secured the fine achievement of at least one car finishing on the podium on every event throughout 2017 for the Cumbrian team.

Third looked set to be going the way of Craig Breen for Citroen, but the Irishman rolled out of the rally on the second stage on Sunday, meaning that third went to Paddon in another i20 WRC.

Fourth in Australia went to world champion Sebastian Ogier who’s poor event was topped off with a 60 second penalty after a timing issue after the Frenchman suffered gearshift issues on day one.

Wales Rally GB hero Elfyn Evans continued his cautious approach that he had taken throughout the event and the Welsh driver took fifth in the final event for the D-MACK sponsored Fiesta after they withdraw their backing at the end of the season, while second Toyota driver Esapekka Lappi rounded out the top six.

Photo Credit: @Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Several drivers were recovering from incidents previously suffered throughout the opening two days of the rally including Kris Meeke, who restarted under Rally2 rules following Saturday’s accident hitting a bridge. The Irishman driver salvaged seventh overall.

The top 10 in Australia were rounded out by local drivers Richie Dalton, Nathan Quinn and Dean Herridge, while two more drivers who suffered issues earlier in the rally, youngster Kalle Rovanperä, the sole WRC2 entry and day one leader Andreas Mikkelsen finished 12th and 14th respectively.

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