Citroen's Dani Sordo finally broke his duck and won his first WRC event on Rallye Deutschland this weekend, but the Spaniard was made to work for it and was pushed all the way by Thierry Neuville.
Sordo had a point to prove in Germany, the ninth round in the 2013 World Rally Championship, after a frustrating outing in Finland and after being dropped by Citroen for Rally Australia – and prove it he did.
Although the Spaniard had claimed over 30 'senior' WRC podiums prior to this weekend, he had never got to step on the top of the rostrum, and initially it looked like he would again struggle to do so.
Indeed runaway championship leader Sebastien Ogier was strongest on Thursday evening, winning both tests in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC to take the early lead. The Frenchman, who came into the event with an outside chance of securing the 2013 WRC Drivers' title, then went off, however, on Friday morning and had to retire. Ogier eventually finished 17th overall under the Rally 2 regulations, claiming three bonus points for winning the event ending Power Stage.
After Ogier's demise, Jari-Matti Latvala took over at the top of the leaderboard with Neuville breathing down his neck. Neuville won the first four stages on Friday and got to within 2 seconds of his Finnish rival, before Latvala responded and ended day two with a 7.3 second cushion.
Saturday saw Latvala continue to pull ahead and despite a scare in SS11, when he hit a hinkelstein – a concrete block – the VW #2 doubled his advantage.
Then came the repeat loop, and with the heavens opening, the event was turned on its head. Latvala and Neuville both had problems in SS12. Latvala went out after hitting a pile of logs, but Neuville also had problems - and at the same corner as Jari-Matti went off and damaged his exhaust. The Belgian could continue, and briefly held the lead, before dropping behind Sordo in SS13, what turned out to be the final test of the leg as SS14 was cancelled due to a tragic fatal accident
involving a historic car participating in a 'non-competitive demonstration programme'.
The last day was set up for a thrilling duel between Sordo and Neuville and with just 0.8 seconds between them, the battle went down to the very last stage. Sordo had gained 2.2 seconds in SS15, but with 3 seconds splitting them, there was still everything to play for ahead of SS16, the repeat-run through Dhrontal. It was nip and tuck throughout, but Sordo eventually emerged victorious, with Neuville going off just before the end.
Sordo thus claimed the win by 53 seconds, just the result he needed at a time when questions were - and are - being asked about his future.