Neuville holds nerve to win Rally of Corsica
Hyundai's Belgian driver Thierry Neuville sped to his third career victory on the twisty mountain passes at the Rally of Corsica on Sunday, kick starting his campaign after near misses in the first two races of the season.
France's multiple world champion Sebastien Ogier came second some 54.7sec adrift while Spain's Dani Sordo, also of Hyundai, came in third at 56sec.
The weekend started slowly for Neuville before he took the lead on Saturday when a never-ending sequence of turns was too much for leader Kris Meeke's Citroen, whose engine went up in smoke.
Neuville's Hyundai then came into its own on the rough asphalt and he stormed past world champion Ogier of Ford, lying second overnight.
"It feels fantastic," said Neuville after his triumph.
"I really was not the favourite after Friday, but our luck finally changed after Monte Carlo and Sweden," he said.
Ogier had slipped to third early on Sunday with the Hyundai duo looking strong, but the wily champion finished second in the closing powerstage to edge Sordo by just over a second at the end of four days of racing.
Runner up in the world championships in 2016, Neuville had come into the weekend sitting in fifth overall after blowing the lead in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
The win sees the Belgian leap two places in the world championship standings where Ogier has 88pts, Jari-Matti Lavala is second on 75 and Neuville third on 55.
1. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 3hrs 22mins 53.4sec
2. Sébastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) at 54.7sec
3. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 56.0
4. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 1min 09.6
5. Craig Breen-Scott Martin (IRL-GBR/Citroën C3) 1:09.7
6. Hayden Paddon-John Kennard (NZL/Hyundai i20) 2:16.3
7. Andreas Mikkelsen-Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR/Skoda Fabia R5) 8:10.7
8. Teemu Suninen-Mikko Markkula (FIN/Ford Fiesta RS) 9:17.0
9. Stéphane Sarrazin-Jacques-Julien Renucci (FRA/Skoda Fabia R5) 9:23.6
10. Yohan Rossel-Benoît Fulcrand (FRA/Citroën DS3 R5) 12:57.1
Meeke (SS1, SS2, SS4), Ogier (SS3, SS7)
Neuville (SS5, SS6, SS8, SS9)