Thierry Neuville has set his sights on getting on the podium before the end of the season following an impressive run in France.

The Belgian ran in the top-six in his Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3 WRC throughout the four days in Alsace, and after winning the short opening test on Thursday, he continued to set good times.

Indeed on the final day he was in a class of his own, winning five of the six stages, and hauling himself back up to fourth after a mistake on Saturday saw him pick up a 20-second penalty when he was late at the time control before SS11. In the end he finished just 23.2 seconds off Mikko Hirvonen in third and 9.1 seconds up on Mads Ostberg in P5. He also claimed two bonus points for the second best time in the Power Stage.

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"In hindsight, I think that the mishap [on Saturday] only made me try even harder. I had to push to make up the lost time and that helped me to feel more confident about my driving," Neuville said.

"This is my best result in the WRC and I could have been battling for a place on the podium. Above all though, I'm pleased with the consistency we managed to achieve throughout the rally. We took another big step forward here, although I still feel like I'm learning about the car on tarmac. Overall, I'm more confident and things are going in the right direction.

"Our goal now is to finish a rally on the podium before the end of the season," he vowed.

Neuville will get a chance to do just that in two weeks time when he takes in Rally d'Italia Sardegna, where he will run in Nasser Al-Attiyah's Qatar World Rally Team DS3 WRC.

Al-Attiyah himself meanwhile failed to finish in Strasbourg, after an accident on Saturday morning in SS10 - an incident that left one spectator with a broken leg and one with a broken arm. The Qatari had been running just outside the points in eleventh.

"It's a shame. I was having my best rally on tarmac. We hit two spectators in the incident; fortunately, their injuries aren't too serious. I feel really sorry for them. I won't be competing in Sardinia now, because I'll be starting preparations for the Dakar Rally. Thierry Neuville will be driving my Citroen DS3 WRC car there," he remarked.

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How much "progress" does Thierry Neuville need to start beating Mikko Hirvonen regularly, Mr. Matton? These team bosses and their obsession with "experienced" drivers... How much has it paid up against Loeb, exactly? Start betting on fresh blood, already.

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