Thierry Neuville has won the second Cyprus Golden Stage Rally following a stunning performance over both runs of the spectacular mixed-surface stage shown live on Eurosport
Neuville underlined the pace and competitiveness of his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 by going fastest through the first run of the 19.43-kilometre test by 4.8s before heading the second run by 1.2s despite almost going off the road in his efforts to keep ahead of Juho Hanninen, who finished second, 6.0s adrift of the rising star on aggregate time.
The Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg driver's success means he pockets 40,000 Euros in prize money. Hanninen, in a factory Skoda Fabia S2000, collected 28,000 Euros with team-mate Jan Kopecky securing 16,000 Euros for finishing third.
“We go completely flat out and I really enjoyed the Golden Stage,” said Neuville, who was co-driven by fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul. “It's a shame we lost the Cyprus Rally but we are in front again and we showed we've got the pace on gravel. I have to thank Peugeot Sport and Peugeot Belgium for their support in getting me here.”
Neuville completed the first run with the left-rear tyre off its rim after he clouted a bank, the result of his pace-notes being too optimistic. He was similarly spectacular on the second pass with several sideways moments.
“We pushed to the maximum when we saw that Juho was equal with us [on split times],” said Neuville. “It was a big attack but we got to the finish and I'm really happy.”
Hanninen's car needed a replacement clutch and gearbox in service between the Golden Stage runs when the original clutch failed after the opening pass. He was gracious in defeat at the finish near the seaside town of Polis.
“It did a clean run with no mistakes,” said the Finn. “It was a difficult stage but I was happy with my time and it's a nice way to finish the season. Thierry deserved this victory, he was very fast.”
Kopecky was third fastest through both runs alongside stand-in co-driver Pavel Dresler. “I just wanted to finish without making mistakes so I didn't take any big risks,” said the Czech. “It was quite hard with a new co-driver because this stage was very fast with lots of crests.”