With Sebastien Ogier comfortably half a minute down the road and heading inexorably to his fifth WRC win of the year, the focus of interest on the final day of the Neste Oil Rally Finland was unquestionably the heated battle for second place between Qatar WRT's Thierry Neuville and his Ford Fiesta RS stable mate Mads Ostberg.

Neuville had taken the overnight lead at the end of the first day, but a puncture on Friday dropped him 30 seconds off Ogier. With Ostberg also suffering a deflated left front tyre as a result of a broken rim on SS14, it left the pair neck-and-neck going into the final day.

In the end, the battle came down to the second and final run through Ouninpohja in the afternoon, with just a tenth of a second separating the pair going into the 33km stage.

"On the start line I was a little nervous"," Neuville admitted. "I could see Mads going into the stage in front of me and he was very fast into the first corner. I could see he was pushing and I had no choice."

Ostberg paid for his pace when he was forced to run off the road to avoid hitting a rock that could have ended his race outright. The detour cost him 20 seconds and meant that Neuville went into the final stage of the rally with a comfortable safety margin.

"I was particularly happy with my run through Ouninpohja. It would have been nice to have taken the record, but the second place was most important and we decided to let Sebastien have that one," he laughed. "We did it and we are here. It's a shame [Mads] had the stone [in Ouninpohja], I saw it as well. We had the same speed, but it went right for me.

"The M-Sport team did a fantastic job," he said, summing up his and Ostberg's efforts. "To be beating the Finns here is not easy so to have two cars on the podium is a real achievement."

Even as battle raged over second place, Neuville was realistic about knowing that the race win was out of his reach unless Sebastien Ogier had suffered some sort of calamity.

"I was not thinking about the win. I knew Seb would be very strong and nearly impossible to beat," he insisted.

He did however have the last word of the rally when he managed to pip the championship leader for the top time in the SS23 power stage through Painaa.

"I don't know if Sebastien was on his maximum pace," said Neuville. "I talk to [co-driver] Nicolas [Gilsoul] and said that we would go slowly, but then on the first braking it felt good and we went well around this corner.

"So I continue to the first split, the first split [we] were down and I thought: 'Okay, two points..." But then Sebastien was down to me and at the end I had a good drive - three points!"

Those three points ended up making a key difference coming out of Rally Finland, since it leaves Neuville tied on points with Jari-Matti Latvala for second place in the 2013 championship standings.

"Now I am equal with Jari-Matti and I just need a victory to get past him," said Neuville, adding that he thought a win in the remaining five events of the year was by no means out of the question.

"It's possible, but I think Sebastien needs to be in trouble," he admitted. "I am really looking forward to the first Tarmac event in Germany. I did it twice now, but I need to see how the Fiesta is working and if we can find good settings. If I do then, it's possible to fight with the Volkswagens and the Citroens.

"I just love this car," Neuville added, referring to the Ford Fiesta RS. "[It's] has been faultless all weekend and we have had the confidence to push without taking any risks at all. Okay, we were unlucky with the puncture yesterday, but I think we did a very good job."

"It has been a truly amazing weekend for M-Sport, the Fiesta, our drivers and our entire team," said Qatar M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson. "Both Thierry and Mads were leading the rally and Thierry finished off a perfect weekend with top marks in the Power Stage.

"He is now equal second in the championship which just goes to show how comfortable he has become behind the wheel of the Fiesta," Wilson added.


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