Qatar World Rally Team's Thierry Neuville believes he has taken 'another step forward' after taking his sixth podium of the year on Rally Australia.

Neuville, who was making his debut 'Down Under', struggled initially on Friday and found his pacenotes were overly optimistic. However, his confidence improved in the afternoon and in the final stage of the day he snatched third from Kris Meeke.

The Belgian then pulled away and today he looked set to take third until a final-stage puncture relegated Mikko Hirvonen from P2 to P3.

The runners-up spot - his fourth in a row - combined with the two points he took for posting the second best time in the Power Stage, means Neuville now strengthens his hold on second in the Drivers' Championship, with the gap to Jari-Matti Latvala going up from 11 points to 19. His haul also meant he stopped Sebastien Ogier from clinching the 2013 WRC Drivers' title, not that he is a realistic threat given he is 83 points back and there is only a maximum 84 left available.

"I came to this event and I wanted to increase the gap between myself and Jari-Matti [Latvala], I didn't think about wanting to stop Sebastien [Ogier] from being champion. I'm [actually] a little disappointed for Sebastien [that he hasn't secured the title], but at the same time I am just doing my job and if second place is there for the taking, I'm going to take it!" Neuville said following round ten in the 2013 World Rally Championship.

"[Overall] I was really pleased with our performance this weekend. Once again, we were quite clever - pushing when we felt good and checking the notes over the first loop - which proved to be a good strategy."

Asked about his struggles on Friday morning, Neuville said that he just found it hard switching back into gravel mode following Rallye Deutschland: "On the first day I was out of the rhythm," he explained. "Coming from Germany and driving the car on tarmac I didn't feel anything on the gravel. I know from the past that when I switch cars, it takes me too much time - the pacenotes were too optimistic. We had to change a lot. I know I have to work on this. We see that I always lose time on the first day of a rally and then get stronger.

"But it got better and finally it was a good result for us. We have scored good points for us and this is another step forward. I must be happy - we had a great rally with the Qatar M-Sport team, there were no problems on the car [too]."

Neuville is now looking forward to getting back on asphalt and is keen to go well in Alsace: "In France, I will definitely try to push and fight with the two Sebastiens [Ogier and Loeb]. I know it will be difficult, but that will be my goal," he stated.

Qatar M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson meanwhile was again pleased with the performance of his young charge: "It's been another dream result for Thierry. We certainly didn't expect to finish second again but it just proves how he is developing and the professional way in which he has approached every event this season. He's been patient, and smart, and ended up with a fantastic result.

"Our cars have run faultlessly all weekend, and the good thing is that we have now improved our position in the Drivers' championship over both Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jari-Matti."



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