Neuville handed public service duty for road section speeding

Thierry Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe have also had a minute added to their rally time

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Thierry Neuville has slipped from second down to fourth place in the stewards’ room of the Croatia Rally after he was hit with a minute penalty for driving at ‘excessive speed’ after SS4.

The clerk of the course of the Zagreb-based event had already hit the Belgian with a €1900 fine for the offence, but Neuville was later summoned to the stewards on Friday evening to discuss the possible breaches of the FIA International Sporting Code which occur when you drive at 96.9mph in an area limited to 49.7mph.

Neuville, co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe and team manger Pablo Marcos attended the stewards’ room shortly after 9pm on Friday.

The stewards’ decision noted: “The driver stated that, due to some technical problems encountered on his car, he was late in approaching TC4A.

“He further mentioned that, in order to reduce their delay, they were “obliged to overspeed”, although they knew that this was a breach of the traffic regulations. However, they stated that they had never put anybody at danger, also because at that moment there was no traffic.

“The data retrieved from the official FIA Safety Tracking System showed that the crew was overspeeding for approximately 11km [6.83 miles] on the afore-mentioned road section.

“Excessive speed represents a serious breach of the above-mentioned articles of the FIA International Sporting Code.

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“In this case the speed recorded was almost 100% over the speed limit, and neither the absence of traffic nor the intention of trying to reduce their delay at TC4A can be taken into account to claim mitigating circumstances.”

As well as the one-minute penalty, which now leaves them 2m04s behind rally leader Kalle Rovanperä, Neuville and Wydaeghe will both be required to perform two days of public service at the discretion of the FIA within the next 12 months.

It’s not the first speeding offence Neuville has committed recently as he received a suspended one-event ban for a similar offence at Rally Estonia last season.

Running at 118mph in a 56mph zone bagged him a €2500 fine in Tartu. A further incident of travelling at a speed more 30% or more than the limit would have benched him for the next rally last season.

At the time, Neuville talked of a starter motor problem which meant “as they were fighting for a podium position in the classification, they could not avoid overspeeding”.