“I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time, and I am really very happy that we could achieve such a strong result," Novikov enthused afterwards, “We had a scary moment on SS21 when the throttle pedal came off completely and we could only fix it on the road section. But we did so, using cable-ties and some tape!
“This really is an incredible achievement for me. I am very happy but to discover it is second place [and not third], it is the maximum we could have hoped for. Obviously, I am very sorry for Mikko, as he had a very good rally, but both Denis [Giraudet – my co-driver] and I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time and it has been an amazing weekend for us both.”
Behind, Petter Solberg came back from his error on Friday in SS6 to take the final place on the podium. Solberg re-started under the Rally 2 regulations on Saturday and hauled himself up from 13th to 5th. He then claimed another position on the final day, eventually finishing just 22.4 seconds off Novikov. In total Petter posted eight stage wins - the most of any driver, as Dani Sordo took 6 and Latvala 4.
“Nobody likes to see the results settled in the officials' room and I feel sorry for Mikko and Jarmo [Lehtinen],” said Solberg. “But tonight's events mean I'm now only four points from the lead of the championship and Ford has made a big leap forwards in the manufacturers' standings. I can't wait for the next round in Argentina!”
Nasser Al-Attiyah was fourth for the Qatar World Rally Team. Al-Attiyah dropped behind Martin Prokop on the penultimate stage, but made up time in the Power Stage to reclaim the position from the Czech driver: “It's fantastic to get this place,” said Al-Attiyah. “I went flat out and took a lot of chances and a lot of risks. With all the water [in SS22] it's a fantastic result. It's a good feeling.”
Further back, Dennis Kuipers was sixth with Volkswagen Motorsport man, Sebastien Ogier seventh in his Skoda Fabia S2000, 21.7 seconds adrift.
Thierry Neuville, like Petter, retired on day two, but came back under the Rally 2 regulations and scored points. He suffered two punctures on the final loop, but limped back to service to securing what ended up being P8.
Jari Ketomaa and Peter van Merksteijn Jr took the final points' paying positions, the latter slipping down to P10 after he lost time in SS21 when his driveshaft broke.
Of the rest, Dani Sordo took eleventh for the Prodrive WRC Team, showing good pace in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC car. His overall position though was compromised after the lead to his alternator broke on Thursday night, forcing him to skip SS3 and SS4. He finished the event on a high, however, by claiming the Power Stage win, although admittedly he did get a helping hand from 'Mother Nature', as conditions deteriorated after his run.
Daniel Oliveria, Latvala, Ott Tanak and Armindo Araujo filled positions 12 through to 15, with SWRC winner, Hayden Paddon 16th. Paddon took the class win, despite retiring on day two. Yazeed Al-Rajhi had been set for the SWRC victory, but he had to stop this morning in SS18 due to suspension damage.