The déjà vu attached to Neuville’s latest win

Thierry Neuville's CER victory was overshadowed by the crowning of a new world champion. But it wasn't the first time


On most World Rally Championship weekends, finishing first earns you the right to Monday morning’s headlines.

But not last weekend. Not when the driver who was second had just won his second World Rally Championship in as many years.

Is that fair? In a sense not really, as the rally winner always deserves their moment in the spotlight.

But even in its own press release, the first quotes attributed to Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul were in recognition of Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen and Toyota’s achievements.

In the wider context, they were the big winners.


Thierry Neuville drank in his moment as you’d expect though, with great stage-end scenes as he clinched the first ever Central European Rally victory. He was proud of his and Martijn Wydaeghe’s achievement, even if it was lost in the frenzy of a world champion being crowned.

“We had a clear disadvantage on Friday so it made our rally very difficult and our chances for victory were very small, but we were able to turn around the situation yesterday [Saturday] with a consistent and fast run through while others were making mistakes,” Neuville said.

“We were just right behind putting the pressure [on], and it worked.”

But there was an unavoidable sense of déjà vu attached to this latest Neuville win – one that moves him back level with Ott Tänak (and into the top-10) on the all-time winners’ list with 19.

CER was not the first time a fine Neuville win was overshadowed by a Toyota driver finishing runner-up but claiming the championship in the process.


Rewind the clock back four years, and to another Tarmac rally, Neuville arrived at the final stop control of Rally Spain 2019 as the rally winner, but Tänak was about to secure the championship in his Yaris WRC.

In doing so he became the first driver to win a drivers’ title for Toyota since the marque’s return. No driver has taken a title driving anything else since.

Neuville’s not a man who enjoys being second-best, but perhaps predictably he’s not bothered about any outside perception of his victories.

“It doesn’t matter what the others do,” he smiled.

“As long as I get the victory I am pretty satisfied with it.”

2023CER _FD_ 356

But for another season Neuville missed out on the ultimate victory. He feels reliability played a crucial factor in another title defeat.

“He [Rovanperä] has done great,” the Belgian said.

“Incredible performance again, on some very challenging events he is right there, putting in a strong performance to get victory or a podium.

“But also he has been without any technical issue so far this season, not a single one, and that’s three versus zero. It’s a lot of points lost for us.

“But yeah, [we have] the second victory this year and there could be one more at the end of the year.”

Which would be a perfect way to dampen another perfect Toyota season, denying it a home win for the second year in a row.

“Yeah,” Neuville agreed, “flat out and try to take another victory.”