TRIER, Germany (AP) — Thierry Neuville held his nerve to win the Rally of Germany after Jari-Matti Latvala and then Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead on Sunday.
Neuville claimed his first world rally victory by 40.7 seconds from Hyundai teammate Dani Sordo, last year's winner. Sordo finished 17.3 seconds ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen's Volkswagen Polo R.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the Belgian driver, who virtually destroyed his car after rolling in pre-event trials on Thursday morning.
"I think we did an unbelievable job during all three days of the rally and I can only say thank you to our team. They did a fantastic job after our roll on shakedown," Neuville said. "We kept the pressure on and it paid off."
Neuville started the day 4.3 seconds behind Citroen driver Meeke, who was 56.6 seconds behind Latvala's Volkswagen.
Latvala went off the road in a vineyard section about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) after the start, gifting Meeke the lead, only for the British driver to crash into a wall in the following stage, which was won by Neuville.
Neuville claimed Hyundai's maiden win on the Korean manufacturer's first season back in the championship and became only the second Belgian to win a world rally following Francois Duval in Australia in 2005.
Volkswagen's winning run of 12 events that started in Australia last year was ended.
"We're not in the championship to put together a run of the most victories," Volkswagen team chief Jost Capito said. "We're here to fight for the championship."
The team lost both Latvala and series leader Sebastien Ogier to crashes in the three-day asphalt event. World champion Ogier crashed Friday and again on Saturday, when the Frenchman's car was too badly damaged to restart.
With four races in the series remaining, Ogier still leads the standings by 44 points from his Finnish teammate Latvala.
- Motor Rallying
- Sports & Recreation
- Thierry Neuville
- Kris Meeke
- Jari-Matti Latvala