Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville has conquered the Ypres Rally 2021 and eighth round of the World Rally Championship at home in Belgium. The local hero defeated Craig Breen by 30.7 seconds following an intense battle between the two teammates. Meanwhile, Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä took the third step of the podium 43.1 seconds behind the winner.
With this victory, both Neuville and his team put an end to a winning drought lasting five rounds (Portugal, Croatia, Sardegna, Kenya & Estonia). overwhelmed by the superiority of their Japanese rivals in the championship. Toyota has won six (Monte Carlo, Croatia, Portugal, Sardinia, Kenya, and Estonia) of the eight appointments held so far in the season.
Neuville delighted his home crowd with a memorable show of strength. He took the leadership of the race in the fourth stage and didn’t let go until the end. This was, however, only the second victory of the year for the Alzenau team since Ott Tänak took Rally Finland back in February.
It is thus hard to say if this was just a one-off occurrence, supported by the winner’s privileged knowledge of the terrain, or if on the contrary. represents a change in trend. On an individual level, this was Neuville’s first victory of the season and fourteenth of his career. His last win was Monte Carlo 2020.
Sunday: Neuville keeps his ground and takes the glory
Things remained very much in the air at the start of the final day. Neuville, who started with a 10.1-second advantage over Breen, imposed a devastating pace right from the start. With only three stages left, the distance between them had grown to 16.3 seconds.
Despite having three stages still up for grabs ahead of them, Neuville’s edge had already dealt a blow to the Briton’s morale. In the end, Breen’s fears proved to be true. There were to be no changes to the first and second places, although the third position did switch hands.
The previous round’s winner, Rovanperä, beat teammate Evans in the penultimate stage (SS18) of the Ypres Rally and so the youngest pilot in the history of the WRC took the bronze position in the podium.
Saturday: Neuville and Breen come head-to-head
As in the previous stage, Saturday was witness to another intense showdown between the two Hyundai teammates. When one of them attacked, the other responded with even greater force.
At the end of a very exciting day, Neuville had taken three stages and Breen two and the former went to sleep with a 10.1-second advantage over Breen, an increment of 2,5 seconds.Behind them, an outstanding Evans kept his position as a privileged spectator at a safe 42.1-second distance from the top.
Friday: Neuville shines
After Tänak was fastest on the first special, a battle to the death broke out between his two Hyundai teammates. Breen took SS2 and SS3 but the Belgian responded by winning the final four stages of the day (SS4-SS7) since the last one was canceled after it was declared unsafe.
Thanks to that outstanding performance, the #11 dethroned his teammate Breen from the lead, ending the day with a 7.6-second advantage over the combative Irishman. Meanwhile, Tänak completed a sweeping 1-2-3 Hyundai finish at 31.2 seconds behind Neuville.
Images of Ypres Rally 2021: Hyundai Motorsport.