Hyundai faces a tense race to repair Thierry Neuville’s battered i20 WRC before tonight’s (Thursday) start of Neste Oil Rally Finland after the Belgian suffered a big accident in
Neuville crashed at a fast left bend near the end of his first pass through the 4.62km Ruuhimäki stage. The car felled a tree and returned to the Jyväskylä service park on a trailer where mechanics immediately started work.
The rear took the brunt of the impact and while the team was confident the i20’s roll cage was not damaged, FIA technical officials had yet to examine the car and give it the all-clear.
Neuville admitted he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were lucky to escape injury.
“It was quite a huge off. I arrived at the corner at about 160kph and went off at about 80kph. There was no escape because the trees were very close to the road,” he said.
“The grip was much less than I expected. I saw the braking lines from the other boys and tried to adapt. But I was too far off line and with the camber of the road I couldn’t take the apex and went straight off.
“I pulled the handbrake to try to go backwards into the trees. It’s a fifth gear left corner but I came in sixth. Straight away from starting to brake it was full lock with the steering but I couldn’t get round,” he said.
Neuville will hope the accident proves a good omen. Almost 12 months ago he rolled heavily in shakedown at ADAC Rallye Deutschland before going on to win.
Mads Østberg was fastest in Citroën’s DS 3. The Norwegian went quickest by 0.4sec in the last of his four runs to edge out Andreas Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen Polo R. Robert Kubica was another tenth of a second in arrears in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Jari-Matti Latvala and championship leader Sébastien Ogier were fourth and fifth in Polo Rs, with Ott Tänak completing the top six in a Fiesta RS.
The leading times were:
|1.||Mads Østberg||DS 3||2min 13.3sec|
|2.||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 13.7sec|
|3.||Robert Kubica||Ford Fiesta RS||2min 13.8sec|
|4.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 14.0sec|
|5.||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 14.1sec|
|6.||Ott Tänak||Ford Fiesta RS||2min 14.6sec|
|7.||Kris Meeke||DS 3||2min 15.1sec|
|8.||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai i20||2min 15.7sec|
|9.||Elfyn Evans||Ford Fiesta RS||2min 16.3sec|
|10.||Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20||2min 17.0sec|