Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke both crashed out of ADAC Rallye Deutschland in an astonishing opening to Sunday’s final leg to leave Thierry Neuville on the verge of his maiden WRC victory.
Leader Latvala went off the road in a vineyard section about 14km after the start of the opening 18.03km Dhrontal stage. His car dropped through the vines and came to rest near a road below at the 8.7km point.
The Finn’s demise left Meeke with an 8.4sec lead over Neuville, but Meeke crashed into a wall early in the following Grafschaft stage, ripping the rear left wheel from his Citroen DS3.
The drama means Neuville has a 35.7sec advantage over Dani Sordo with a second pass through the same two stages remaining before the Trier finish.
Their Hyundai team is on course to record a maiden WRC victory and a 1-2 finish. If Neuville wins, he will be only the second Belgian to win a world rally following François Duval’s success in Australia in 2005.
Latvala was aiming for his second consecutive victory, and his first ever on asphalt, after winning his home round in Finland last month. He left Trier this morning with a 56.6sec lead in his Volkswagen Polo R over Meeke.
Volkswagen have lost both Latvala and team-mate Sébastien Ogier to crashes this weekend and it brings to an end the team’s winning run of 12 events which started in Australia last year.
Andreas Mikkelsen spun his Polo R at the same point where Latvala went off, but the Norwegian lies third. He is chased by Elfyn Evans, who is just 8.5sec behind, with Mikko Hirvonen fifth a further 9.6sec behind his team-mate.
Bryan Bouffier and Yuriy Protasov also reported spins in Dhrontal, while Robert Kubica retired his Ford Fiesta RS before the stage when the gearbox became stuck in third gear as he warmed his tyres.
Thierry Neuville scored his and Hyundai’s first WRC victory at ADAC Rallye Deutschland in Trier today.
The Belgian won the three-day asphalt event, round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship, by 40.7sec in an i20 World Rally Car.
Dani Sordo, winner in 2013, ensured a 1-2 for the Korean manufacturer in its first season back in the championship. The Spaniard finished 17.3sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R after a chaotic day in which Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke both crashed out of the lead.
Elfyn Evans won the rally-closing live TV Power Stage to take maximum bonus points in a Ford Fiesta RS. Neuville claimed two points for second with Mikko Hirvonen taking one in another Fiesta RS.
Thierry Neuville claimed a rags-to-riches first world rally victory in Germany today (Sunday), three days after virtually destroying his car when he rolled six times at pre-event shakedown.
In a chaotic final day at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, Neuville climbed from third after first Jari-Matti Latvala and then Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead.
The win on this ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship was the first for Hyundai in its debut year back in the series. Dani Sordo added icing to the cake by finishing second for the Korean manufacturer.
Twelve months ago Neuville came close to victory in Germany as he and Sordo fought a final stage duel when driving for different teams. Sordo won on that occasion to secure his first win when Neuville slid off just before the finish.
Neuville’s story began on Thursday morning when he barrel-rolled through the vineyards near Trier. Team mechanics worked for 18 hours to rebuild the battered i20 car and Neuville repaid them in style, becoming only the second Belgian to win a world rally and the first since François Duval in 2005.
“I think we did an unbelievable job during all three days of the rally and I can only say thank you to our team,” he said. “They did a fantastic job after our roll on shakedown and I couldn’t believe we could do such a good result. We put pressure on the others and it paid off.”
Latvala, chasing his first asphalt win to reignite his title bid, was almost a minute clear when he started the first of the final four stages in the vineyards on the banks of the Mosel River.
However, he crashed his Volkswagen Polo R in treacherously slippery conditions, handing Meeke an 8.4sec advantage over Neuville. But the Northern Irishman hit a wall early in the next test after a recce pace note error, ripping the left rear wheel from his Citroen DS3.
Australia hosted WRC from 1989 to 2006 in the west coast city of Perth.
Langley Park super special stage next to Swan River provided the template for such tests.
Won the accolade for the best rally three times in the late 1990s.
The rally moved to the east coast in New South Wales in 2009 and two years later was relocated to Coffs Harbour in 2011.
What’s new for 2014
New mixed surface super special stage which will be run in darkness at the end of Friday and Saturday’s action.
Service park switches to the Cex Coffs International Stadium, which adjoins the super special stage.