Trier, Germany - Belgian Thierry Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20, took advantage of withdrawals by defending world champion Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matta Latvala to win his and the car manufacturer's maiden title at the German Rally on Sunday.
Neuville, 26, finished 40 seconds ahead of Spanish team-mate Dani Sordo in a first-ever one-two and victory for Hyundai in the World Rally Championship.
Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen came in third to save some face for Volkswagen after Ogier and Latvala's crashes.
Frenchman Ogier's involvement in the ninth leg of the world rally championship came to a premature end on Saturday when his Volkswagen Polo smashed into a roadside barrier on Stage 8, which was then cancelled for safety reasons.
LATVALA CRASHES OUT
And on Sunday, overnight leader Latvala went off the road in a vineyard section about 14km after the start of the opening 18.03km Dhrontal stage.
The Finn's demise left Briton Kris Meeke with an 8.4 second lead over Neuville, but Meeke then crashed into a wall early in the following Grafschaft stage, ripping the rear left wheel from his Citroen DS3.
The drama handed Neuville an unassailable lead over Sordo and continued to hand the Hyundai team a maiden WRC victory and a 1-2
Neuville himself had overcome a dramatic crash on the opening day of action on Thursday, when he barrel-rolled through the vineyards near Trier.
Team mechanics worked for 18 hours to rebuild the battered i20 and Neuville heaped praise on the backroom staff.
“I think we did an unbelievable job during all three days of the rally and I can only say thank you to our team,” the Belgian said.
“They did a fantastic job after our roll on shakedown and I couldn't believe we could achieve such a good result. We put pressure on the others and it paid off.”
Neuville's victory was only the second by a Belgian on the world rally circuit following Francois Duval's success in Australia in 2005. -AFP
RALLY GERMANY RESULTS - TOP 10
1. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) 3h07m20.2s
2. Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20) +40.7s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo) +58.0s
4. Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta) +1m03.6s
5. Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta) +1m10.5s
6. Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3) +1m22.7s
7. Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta) +4m52.8s
8. Dennis Kuipers (Ford Fiesta) +9m18.1s
9. Pontus Tidemand (Ford Fiesta) +11m35.4s
10. Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta) +11m37.2s