COLOGNE, Germany - Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul put in another sensational performance to finish second overall at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. In a nail-biting fight to the finish, the duo secured the runner-up spot for the third event in succession in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC and strengthened their hold on second position in the FIA World Rally Championship’s driver and co-driver standings.
Heading into the final day showdown, Neuville was locked in an epic battle for the lead. As the stages ventured back to the Belgian’s favoured hunting ground in the Mosel vineyards, he went into the last two tests with all to play for – just 0.8 seconds separating him from securing the top-step on the podium.
Using the first pass as a high-speed recce to double check the notes he lost just 2.2 seconds to rival Dani Sordo – a feat made all the more impressive considering he was also nursing a slow puncture. That left only a three-second deficit going into the final speed test.
As the Belgian fans roared at the stage end, the leading pair traded fastest splits throughout the 24.58 kilometre stage – it all coming down to the final five kilometres. Ultimately, the battle came to an end some three kilometres from the finish line. Pushing to the limit, Neuville put his Fiesta slightly off-road – gifting 50 seconds to his rival and forfeiting a potential first win.
“This was an incredible weekend and I feel we proved a lot again, even if we did ultimately just miss out on the win,” said Neuville. “The battle with Dani [Sordo] reminded me of some of the fights I used to have in the IRC! Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and I decided we were going to go for it on the final stage, but there was a corner towards the start that was much dirtier than I’d expected and I went slightly wide, which cost me two seconds.
“We then gave it everything – driving flat-out to regain the time we had lost and try to win in front of all our supporters. The split-times showed that approach was working well, but then coming out of the forest, I mistook one fast left-hand corner in the vineyards for another and we went off. By the time Nicolas announced the pacenote, it was already too late. Luckily we were able to rejoin the road and make it to the finish without losing position.
“Dani drove really well all weekend, setting consistently fast times and making no mistakes. I can only congratulate him and Carlos [del Barrio] and hope that soon it will be our turn. Second place is still a great result for us and I’m very satisfied with our performance in Germany. At least we tried, and our time will come.”
Regardless of the outcome, Neuville and Gilsoul were outstanding in their pursuit of victory. Determined to the end, the duo were a firm favourite amongst the adoring fans and are thoroughly deserving of their second place in the championship.
In the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Evgeny Novikov were on damage limitation following some time loss earlier in the event.
The Norwegian had been running in a strong fifth place before falling foul to the treacherous conditions on SS12. Sliding off the road, the gravel-expert was unable to right his stricken Fiesta RS WRC and had to settle for Rally 2 on the final day. Mission accomplished, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson salvaged valuable points in ninth place and will be hoping for better fortune as the championship returns to their favoured surface next month.
Similarly, having slid off the road on the opening test, Novikov’s task remained much the same. Disadvantaged with ten minutes of Rally 2 time penalties, he and co-driver Ilka Minor used their time wisely to perfect their pacenotes. With his strategy paying dividends, the Russian climbed an impressive 61 places over the course of the weekend to finish in a points-scoring tenth place.
In the sister Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini had to settle for 13th place overall. The Qatari had been on course to secure his best result on asphalt before damaging the steering of his Fiesta when hitting an unsighted rock through the first pass of ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ (SS11).
1) D.Sordo Citroen DS3 WRC
2) T.Neuville Ford Fiesta RS WRC
3) M.Hirvonen Citroen DS3 WRC
4) M.Prokop Ford Fiesta RS WRC
5) R.Kubica Citroen DS3 WRC
6) E.Evans Ford Fiesta R5
7) J.M.Latvala VW Polo WRC
8) H.Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000
9) M.Østberg Ford Fiesta RS WRC
10) E.Novikov Ford Fiesta RS WRC