Hyundai's Thierry Neuville has secured the runners-up spot in the 2016 WRC Drivers' Championship after finishing third on Rally Australia.
The Belgian began the final leg 21.8secs adrift of team-mate Hayden Paddon, having slipped behind the Kiwi on Saturday. However in SS20, Neuville moved back in front when Paddon lost over 50 secs after hitting a bank and knocking one of his rear wheels of the rim.
It was Neuville's fifth podium in succession and his seventh of the season, ensuring he finished 6 points ahead of event winner Andreas Mikkelsen in the standings.
“I am delighted with the way this rally has gone. I couldn't imagine that I would be fighting my mate Andreas to be second in the championship. I expected a more calm weekend. I was pretty sure the road positions, well, I did not expect to be on the podium and did not expect Andreas to be there,” Neuville said.
“After two or three stages, I realised if I want to be second in the championship then I have to push hard and I have done that. Andreas has done very well, leading nearly all the time. I had no other choice but to go as fast as possible.
“I'm happy with this performance, we achieved our goal and for Andreas it doesn't change much. He wins the rally and this is important for him for next year. I'm really happy to be with these guys on the podium and to complete the season in this positive manner
“Thanks to the team for a job well done this year. We had a difficult start but since Sardinia we've been able to show the speed and consistency necessary to be genuine contenders. I am already looking forward to 2017.”
Asked what he will be doing over the next few weeks, he replied: “My agenda is more clear than these guys [Sebastien Ogier and Mikkelsen – both in limbo after VW's decision to quit].
“I am testing in the new car for the first time on Tarmac next Sunday, then we have our presentation of the new car at Monza, a champions day in Belgium where we race cars – this will be fun. There's also a race show in Italy – I enjoy every second of it.
“Sometimes you realise how nice is our job, it was the biggest dream for me to be here. I have been twice second in the championship and now there is only one more place to go – I don't know when this will happen, but I'm working on it.”