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Thierry Neuville returned to work with a dominant win at a national rally in Italy on Sunday – with the Belgian seeing his latest success as a vital step towards the FIA World Rally Championship’s restart at Rally Estonia (4 - 6 September).
Neuville dominated Rally di Alba, playing himself back into competition after lockdown by winning eight of the nine special stages to head Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Ott Tänak by 22.4sec. Both were driving i20 World Rally Cars.
The pair worked together throughout the event to fine-tune car set-up.
“We were switching some parts between the cars and Ott and myself gave very similar feedback on those parts,” explained Neuville. “Now I need a good debrief so we can go home with a lot of important feedback for the fight in the world championship.”
The rally was Tänak’s first time in the car on pure asphalt and the Estonian was pleased with what he found.
“The WRC is going to be tight and we don’t have too many opportunities. We definitely need to be ready when it comes and rallies like this one will help. We definitely experienced a lot and this is a big boost going forward,” Tänak said.
Reigning WRC 2 champion Pierre-Louis Loubet was driving an i20 WRC for the second event in as many weeks and finished third behind his team-mates.
Craig Breen, who will partner Neuville and Tänak at Rally Estonia, won the Rally di Alba proper (the World Rally Cars ran in their own event at the front of the field), having led from start to finish in an R5 version of the car. Jari Huttunen and Dani Sordo ensured an i20 podium lock-out.
• Meanwhile, Hyundai WRC 2 driver Nikolay Gryazin won the two-day Samsonas Rally Rokiškis in Lithuania in an i20 R5. The Russian won by 35.7sec in his first rally for more than four months as he prepares to return to WRC support category action in Estonia.
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