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Thierry Neuville wins Greece’s rally: ‘Relief after a collapse at Ypres’

Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Martijn Wiedeke (Hyundai i20N Rally1) have won the Greece Rally, making it the tenth WRC 2022 out of a total of thirteen races. It was his sixteenth career win for Neuville and his first. of the season. Teammates Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo joined Neuville on the podium.

“It’s a special moment after a tough season,” Thierry Neuville said at the end of the last classification stage. “Finally we win a rally. It’s good, especially after the tough weekend we had in Ypres. It’s a great relief. But the most important thing is the treble we scored. After all these years it finally worked. It’s a historic moment for the brand and the manufacturer. Everyone has worked so hard for this and it’s a great reward.’

Neuville’s Estonian teammate, Ott Tänak, finished second in Greece and the team then decided not to take any more risks and finish in the top three. Were group orders the right choice? It depends on how you look at it. If you choose the championship, it’s the wrong choice. If you have chosen public communication, then it is the right choice. It’s clear from my point of view: I want to fight for the championship. On Friday we had problems with the hybrid system and on Saturday we had other problems,” Tanak concluded.

At Hyundai Motorsport, the joy is unstoppable. ‘It’s a fantastic result,’ said team manager Julien Manchett. ‘Everyone is happy. It was a perfect weekend. Cars were fast and reliable. At the start of the season nobody gave us a euro. Now we are fast, reliable and have regularity in our performance. We are in the running for the championship. It will be tough, but let’s take it rally by rally. Finally, I would like to say that we should stop arguing about group orders. It’s a great ending: the end of the story.’

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Many discontinuities

Greece’s rally began Thursday evening with a performance at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. Neuville won the stage and immediately took the lead. On Friday, Sébastien Loeb (Ford Puma Rally1) took the lead, followed by his compatriot and teammate Pierre-Louis Loubet (Ford Puma Rally1). Loubet won his first WRC GC stages earlier in the day and took the lead in between.

Saturday was declared as the toughest day. The combination of heat, dust and nearly 150 demanding miles takes its toll. After the opening stage of 33.2 km, Loeb had to pull his Ford with electrical problems. In the next phase, Loubet punched and Rowanpera hit a tree. Both drivers lost a lot of time and were dropped in the general classification. Hyundai dominated the day and won six stages. At the end of the day when Essebekka Luppi pulled out at the front, the way was wide open for only the Hyundai drivers to break into the top three.

Only Elfin Evans (Toyota Yaris Rally1) could disrupt the Hyundai party on Sunday. But when that Sunday morning fell with a broken turbo, the top three were fixed and the Hyundai team decided to issue orders. “Before the stage started, I was told not to push anymore and to hold on to this result,” said Ott Tanak at the end of the final stage. The Estonian hoped Hyundai could make a decision in his favor and allow him to win the rally, taking a third win in a row and closing the gap on World Cup leader Rowanbera once again. But that decision never came. Hyundai picked up the top three spots in the Constructors’ World Championship, reducing Toyota’s lead from 88 to 63 points. With three rallies to run, Hyundai is still in contention for the world title with wins in Finland, Ypres and Greece.

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Tanak won the power stage over Rowanbera and Breen. The overall victory in this tough rally in Greece was Thierry Neuville, who didn’t take too many risks in the power stage and set the sixth fastest time. Neuville’s last win was in October 2021 and the Rally of Spain. His victory in Greece was his first of the season and his sixteenth overall. Ot Tunak will have to settle for second place. Dani Sordo was third. Remarkably, in every rally he participated in this year, Sordo finished third and thus finished on the podium. For Hyundai, the Rally of Greece was a historic race in which it finished first, second and third for the first time in its history.

Third place in the World Cup standings

Calle Rowenbere continues to lead, but Dunnuck, the first follower after the rally, sees his lead over the short rally. The gap between the two is now 53 points. Elfin has moved ahead of Evans to third place in Theory New.

The next World Cup rally is the New Zealand rally later this month. If Rowanpere scores eight points more than Ott Tunak, he will win the world title.