Thierry Neuville wins Rally Australia

Thierry Neuville wins Rally Australia

COFFS HARBOUR - Agence France-Presse
Thierry Neuville wins Rally Australia

Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won the season-ending Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour on Nov. 19 to clinch second place in the World Rally Championship.

Hyundai’s Neuville mastered the slippery final stages following torrential rain to hold off challenges from Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Estonia’s Ott Tanak to win by 22.5sec.

The Australian triumph added to Neuville’s previous successes in France, Argentina and Poland and made him the most successful driver of the season in terms of wins.

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier had already won the 2017 World Rally Championship heading into the Australian leg but Neuville’s victory ensured he finished as runner-up. Neuville took the lead when Hyundai i20 teammate Andreas Mikkelsen retired after hitting a bank and puncturing two tires on Nov. 18.

“This one is a special one and really goes to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport,” Neuville said. “We are not world champions, but we drove like world champions.

Latvala looked secure in second but crashed his Toyota Yaris into the trees in the final Power Stage after sliding wide on a fast left-hand corner in the Wedding Bells State forest.

The Finn’s misfortune promoted M-Sport’s Toyota-bound Tanak to second, 22.5 seconds adrift. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) claimed an unlikely third