FIA World Rally Championship / Rally Italia Sardegna / Neuville basks in epic comeback win to extend title gap on Ogier

Courtesy of WRC Media Service Team

Thierry Neuville celebrates the podium during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Alghero, Italy on 10.06.2018 –
Photographer Credit:
Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Belgian has wider advantage than anybody over champion in last five years.

Sébastien Ogier celebrated a two-tenth of a second victory in Jordan by smiling down on everybody in 2011.

Marcus Gronholm pulled a most out-of-character face as he celebrated from the top of his Ford Focus RS WRC when he edged Sébastien Loeb by 0.3 seconds in New Zealand 11 years ago.

So, the wild delight Thierry Neuville showed moments after his seven-tenths of a second Sunday success in Sardinia was confirmed is understandable.

That he’d beaten the master, the five-time champ, was just cause for that face full of delight. But this was more than a single winning round of the championship.

This was the moment he further extended a lead already bigger than any advantage anybody has opened over Ogier in the last five years. Psychologically as well as physically, this was a huge step towards the ultimate dream.

The headline number is the 27-point advantage Neuville holds after round seven, but what about the finer details? Here is all you need to know:

Thierry Neuville (BEL) performs during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Alghero, Italy on 10.06.2018 –
Photographer Credit:
Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

– Of the 128 stages run in total so far this season, Thierry has won 29 compared to 19 for his main title rival (incidentally, neither has the most stage wins – that’s Toyota driver Ott Tänak on 31).

– While Sébastien is 10 short of his rival in terms of individual stage wins, he’s led for 20 more of those 128 2018 World Rally Championship stages than Thierry. Ogier’s 54 plays 34.

– As well as his stunning stage-win record, Estonian Tänak is the only other driver to have won a round of the World Rally Championship this season – Thierry and Sébastien have shared the other six between them. Three from seven is not, however, too spectacular for Ogier. His record is nine victories from 13 starts in the 2013 season, while Thierry managed four from a similar number last year.

– In terms of first-half WRC wins, Ogier outshines Neuville, with the former bagging five from seven in 2014, while the Hyundai man did two from seven in 2017.

Sebastien Ogier (FRA) performs during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Alghero, Italy on 10.06.2018 –
Photographer Credit:
Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

– Ogier’s failure to pick up a single point in Portugal last month hit and really hurt the Frenchman. That no-score slashes his average points take per round – Sébastien’s mean tally per rally is 17.42 while Thierry’s is a healthier 21.28 from a possible 30.

– Neuville has scored on every rally and picked up five podiums compared to Ogier’s four.

– On event points alone (discounting the bonus points from the Power Stage) Neuville can afford to finish second to Ogier on the next three rallies and still be ahead.

Thierry Neuville (BEL) , Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) celebrate the podium during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Alghero, Italy on 10.06.2018 –
Photographer Credit:
Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

– Talking about the Power Stage bonus points, Neuville has averaged 3.28 from a possible five, while Ogier has only picked up 2.28 (although that figure would have been 2.85 had he not lost his Rally Mexico bonus four for clipping the chicane in the Power Stage).

– Looking at the events still to come – and this is the bit where Ogier fans will take heart, the defending champ outscores his rival by 14 wins to two in Finland, Germany, Turkey, Britain, Spain and Australia.

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Thierry Neuville (BEL) , Sebastien Ogier (FRA) , Esapekka Lappi (FIN) celebrate the podium during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Alghero, Italy on 10.06.2018 –
Photographer Credit:
Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool