Portugal win puts Neuville back in WRC lead
THIERRY Neuville won the Vodafone Rally De Portugal on the weekend to swing the FIA World Rally Championship pendulum firmly in his favour.
Victory at the gruelling four-day dirt road encounter promoted the Belgian to the top of the standings as the series approaches its midpoint. After starting 10 points behind reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, the Belgian left Portugal with a 19-point advantage.
Neuville steered his Hyundai i20 away from trouble during a weekend of attrition that sidelined many frontrunners to win by 40.0sec from Elfyn Evans' Ford Fiesta.
Fellow title challengers Ogier and Ott Tänak ended pointless after falling foul of Friday's rock-strewn speed tests and Neuville pressed home his advantage by claiming four extra bonus points in the final Power Stage.
He moved to the front near the end of Friday's first leg after the lead changed hands six times in a frantic opening. He doubled his advantage yesterday and eased through Sunday's finale to secure his second win of the year.
"It was a clever approach all weekend," he said.
"I had a fantastic car which was working well and I felt comfortable. We can be proud of what we achieved here."
WRC DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
119 Thierry Neuville
100 Sébastien Ogier
72 Ott Tanak
60 Dani Sordo
55 Esapekka Lappi
54 Andreas Mikkelsen