Thierry Neuville won Rallye Deutschland on Sunday to take his and Hyundai's maiden win in the World Rally Championship.
It was a brilliant result for the Belgian, especially given he had that massive crash in the shakedown, when he rolled his Hyundai i20 WRC multiple times before the event had even started.
He kept his head after that, however, as the favourites – first Sebastien Ogier and then Jari-Matti Latvala - fell by the wayside, finishing the opening day in fifth and then the second day in third.
Neuville eventually came through 40.7 seconds up on Dani Sordo, who he was second in the sister car, making it a double celebration for Hyundai.
“It is a nice feeling [to win here]. We have done an unbelievable job. I can only say thank you to the team [after the job they did after the shakedown]. It is unbelievable. I could never believe we could do such a good result here. But we put the pressure on our rivals and got the result,” said Neuville, after breaking his duck to become only the second Belgian to win a WRC event - following in the footsteps of Francois Duval, who managed the feat back in 2005 on Rally Australia.
It was a dramatic event, with championship protagonists Ogier and Latvala initially vying for the lead on Friday, before Ogier went off the road in the final test, the 21.02 km Moselland 2 test.
The Frenchman re-started on Saturday under Rally 2, albeit now well down, but then crashed out again in SS8 – this time for good.
With Ogier out, Latvala took over at the front and he won five of the seven stages during the second leg, extending his lead over Citroen's Kris Meeke from 37 seconds to almost a minute.
Sunday though brought more woe for Volkswagen, with Latvala going off in the opening test - 4 kilometres from the end.
Meeke inherited P1 at this point, but not for long, as he crashed into a wall just 2 kilometres into the next stage, ripping the rear left wheel off his Citroen. Neuville then found himself on for the win and he didn't disappoint.
Sordo meanwhile was delighted to get back on the podium and in the process take his first WRC finish with Hyundai: “I am really happy,” said the Spaniard, who won this event twelve months ago. “I am very happy for the team [too] - the people are working so hard. Normally I want to win, but Thierry has driven very, very well.”
Volkswagen Motorsport II driver Andreas Mikkelsen took the final spot on the podium, 17.3 seconds back.
“I missed this rally last year,” said the Norwegian, “so we drove our own event, step by step, no big mistakes and put in a steady drive.”
Behind, M-Sport's Elfyn Evans put in arguably his best drive yet in the WRC to take fourth. The Welshman finished with a flourish, holding off experienced team-mate and team leader Mikko Hirvonen, as well as taking the Power Stage win. Evans was also second in SS16 on the final day and third in SS15 and SS17. P4 equals his previous best overall WRC result in Mexico.
“It has been an absolutely fantastic weekend,” said the Crash.net
columnist. “It has been one of the best weekend's I have had in a long while, although probably not my best rally.”
Hirvonen finished 6.9 seconds back in fifth: “I really tried to push on the last stage, but Elfyn drove well,” said Mikko. “I was so on the limit to try and catch him. It was good fun.”
Further back, Citroen's Mads Ostberg was next up and admitted it had been a “hard event”.
Ford privateer Martin Prokop was seventh, despite what he described as a terrible start, while Dennis Kuipers was eighth in another Fiesta RS WRC car, followed home by Pontus Tidemand and Ott Tanak.
Tidemand snatched the WRC2 victory in the very final test, edging out Tanak by just 1.8 seconds. Armin Kremer took third, with Julien Maurin dropping to fourth after picking up a puncture in the penultimate stage. Maurin had been leading by 24.3 seconds.
In terms of retirements, in addition to Ogier, Latvala and Meeke, Robert Kubica and Bryan Bouffier also failed to get to the end. Kubica was forced out with mechanical problems on the final day, while Hyundai debutant Bouffier, who re-started this morning under Rally 2, crashed in the last test – the only downer for Hyundai.
The 2014 FIA World Rally Championship now continues with Rally Australia next month, which runs from September 11-14.
To view the result for Rallye Deutschland 2014 - CLICK HERE