Coulthard: Sochi ready to bring Formula One to Russia (VIDEO)

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The 2014 Olympic Winter Games (Feb. 6-23 on the networks of NBCUniversal) won’t be the only big sporting event coming to the Russian seaside city of Sochi this year. More than seven months after the Olympic flame goes out, a new street circuit around Sochi Olympic Park will play host to Formula One’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix in October.

Initially, 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard (pictured, left with Krasnodar region deputy governor Mikhail Buturlakin, center, and four-time reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel, right) wasn’t entirely sure about the prospects of staging an F1 race in Sochi.

But as he notes in a recently posted YouTube video from Red Bull team sponsor Infiniti (see above), a visit to the track construction site caused him to change his mind.

“Having had the chance to go there and see what they’re building for the Olympics, it actually does make sense,” Coulthard says in the clip. “Because they have this venue and once it’s used for the Winter Olympics – how else can you continue to keep stimulating the local economy and make use of the facilities, the hotels and everything?”

Coulthard also says that while the track’s ultimate reputation among drivers is still to be determined, he thinks that Sochi’s location next to the Black Sea, along with all the Olympic investment there, makes the city ready to host the world’s most popular motorsport this coming season.

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.”