Neuville wins Tour of Corsica rally as Ogier finishes second
BASTIA, Corsica (AP) Belgian driver Thierry Neuville extended his overnight lead to comfortably win the Tour of Corsica rally on Sunday, with world champion Sebastien Ogier finishing nearly one minute behind in second place.
It was a particularly pleasing win for Neuville after crashing when leading at the Monte Carlo and Sweden rallies this year.
''The feeling is amazing. Special thanks to the team, they have always believed in me and kept pushing me after Monte Carlo and Sweden,'' Neuville said. ''I struggled a bit in the opening day and I wasn't sure we could win this event, but we came back and turned it around.''
Neuville became the fourth driver to win in as many races this season - a first in 30 years - suggesting an unpredictable campaign to come after years of dominance from Ogier and his predecessor Sebastien Loeb.
Neuville had won three of Saturday's four stages to lead Ogier by 38.9 seconds overnight and padded out that advantage to win by 54.7. Spaniard Dani Sordo was 56 seconds behind Neuville in third.
Sunday's ninth and penultimate stage - a long 54-kilometer (33-mile) trek from Antisanti to Poggio di Nazza - gave Ogier an opportunity to close the gap on Neuville.
Instead, he lost more time due to an electrical problem, finishing in seventh. Neuville won stage 9 to extend his lead, while Sordo leapfrogged Ogier.
''I didn't push too much,'' Neuville said. ''I just tried to be efficient.''
Neuville was in a comfortable position heading into the 10th and final session of the race, and did not need to push hard over the 10.4-kilometer (6.5-mile) power stage from Porto-Vecchio to Palombaggia offering five bonus points.
Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala narrowly won it ahead of Ogier, who moved back ahead of Sordo.
Overall, it was a frustrating race for Ogier, who left Volkswagen to drive the Ford Fiesta for M-Sport this season. Even though he won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally, he is still getting accustomed to the car.
''It's been a tough rally but a podium is better than nothing,'' said Ogier, who also had hydraulic problems on Saturday. ''We had no power and no handbrake on the last stage, lots of problems.''
Ogier has won the past four world titles and is looking to become only the second driver to win five. Countryman Loeb holds the record with nine, all won consecutively.
Ogier still leads the championship with 88 points, with Latvala on 75 and Neuville climbing up to third place with 54.
The drivers head to Argentina in three weeks' time at Villa Carlos Paz, about 30 minutes from Cordoba.