McLaren: ECU not to blame for Webber’s poor start

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McLaren have hit back at Christian Horner’s claim their Electronic Control Unit was to blame for Mark Webber’s poor start in the Australian Grand Prix.

Webber dropped five places as he struggled to get off the line in yesterday’s race.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner blamed a fault on the Electronic Control Unit for the problem. The ECU is a standard part used by all the teams and manufactured by McLaren Electronic Systems.

“Mark’s problems were hugely frustrating because it was an ECU issue, said Horner after the race. “You need to ask McLaren why the ECU didn’t work and why it messed up his preparation because he was blind and had no telemetry.”

“It is something they need to get on top of because it caused a lot of issues during testing.”

However MES managing director Peter van Manen denied the fault originated with the ECU:

“There was an issue with Mark Webber’s data system in the garage during the formation lap. The ECU on the car was fine,” he said.

“We regret any disruption caused to Mark’s preparations for the start of the race and will continue to work with the team to prevent any recurrence.”

Webber’s slow getaway dropped him from second to seventh immediately, and he was only able to recover to sixth by the end of the race. Watch his start from onboard the car in this video:

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Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”