WRC competitor Neuville gets public service for speeding on section of road

Thierry Neuville

World Rally Championship contender Thierry Neuville has been handed a series of penalties, including “public service”, for speeding on a section of road in Rally Croatia.

The No. 11 Hyundai was clocked at 156 km/h in an 80 km/h zone on a public road, which the drivers use to get to the stages, on the opening afternoon of the competition during of the Zagreb-based event.

The race director initially fined Neuville the equivalent of around 2800 AUD (1900 EUR, converted to 0.6705 AUD/EUR), but also referred the matter to the stewards.

After a hearing on Friday night (local time), they opted to slap the No. 11 entry with a one-minute penalty, moving Neuville from second overall to fourth.

The Belgian driver and his co-driver, Martijn Wydaeghe, will also have to perform two days of public service at the discretion of the FIA ​​over the next 12 months.

Neuville, currently second in the championship, had already received a 40-second penalty for arriving late at the midday service, due to an alternator failure in his i20.

He tried to cite this as a mitigating factor for speeding on a public road, but the stewards did not accept this argument.

“The driver stated that due to technical issues with his car, he was late approaching TC4A,” their report read.

“He further mentioned that in order to reduce their delay, they were ‘forced to go too fast’, despite knowing it was a traffic violation.

“However, they said they never put anyone at risk, not least because at that time there was no traffic.

“Data extracted from the FIA’s official safety monitoring system showed that the crew was overspeeding for approximately 11 km on the aforementioned stretch of road.

“Excessive speed represents a serious breach of the aforementioned articles of the FIA ​​International Sporting Code.

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

Neuville was fined even more heavily when he more than doubled the speed limit on a liaison section of Rally Estonia last year.

He also received a suspended ban for one event, although this only applies until the end of the season.

Then the 33-year-old claimed a starter problem which meant that “as they were fighting for a place on the podium in the standings, they couldn’t avoid speeding”.

Kalle Rovanpera (Toyota Gazoo Racing) leads Rally Croatia after the first eight stages, with Ott Tanak inheriting second place from fellow Hyundai World Rally Team driver Neuville.

Rovanpera and Tanak are separated by 1:23.3s, with Craig Breen third a further 11.9s in a Ford M-Sport, while Neuville’s deficit to first position will be 2:04.0s once his time penalty is applied.

The event continues this afternoon (AEST).

Every round of the WRC is live, ad-free and on-demand on Stan Sport.