Belgium WRC: Neuville in control as Toyotas fight over third

Hyundai Motorsport will head into the final day of Rally Ypres firmly in command with World Rally Championship local hero Thierry Neuville leading teammate Craig Breen. 

Belgium WRC: Neuville in control as Toyotas fight over third

Hyundai Motorsport will head into the final day of Rally Ypres firmly in command with World Rally Championship local hero Thierry Neuville leading team-mate Craig Breen.

Hyundai team boss Andrea Adamo issued orders to Neuville and Breen to bring the one-two result home earlier in the day, resulting in the pair reducing the risks taken on afternoon’s challenging tarmac stages.

The pair duly followed orders, although Neuville did rack up his sixth and seventh stage wins on the way to ending the loop 10.1s ahead of Breen.

"Pleased to finish the day," summarised Neuville.

"We knew it was going to be a challenging day and there is one more to come tomorrow in a different area.

"The car is working well and I am happy with the performance so far."

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans ended the day third overall, with a 42.4s margin to the Hyundai pairing.

Only 4.3s covers the Toyota trio of Evans, Rally Estonia winner Kalle Rovnapera and championship leader Sebastien Ogier as the battle for the final podium intensified.

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota Yaris WRC

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Ogier hauled himself back into the mix, claiming two stages wins having finally found a comfortable rhythm on the tricky Ypres roads.

After losing three minutes to a puncture in the morning loop, Ott Tanak sits a comfortable sixth and is the last of the WRC runners to have completed the distance thus far, following retirements for Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre-Louis Loubet.

Ogier kicked off the afternoon loop by claiming his first stage win of the event and only Toyota’s second of the weekend, highlighting just how dominant Hyundai has been in Belgium.

The seven-time champion has struggled for pace in Ypres, but managed to string a time together to win the second run through Hollebeke by 0.8s from team-mate and title contender Evans.

Breen was third fastest and rally leader Neuville was fourth as the pair produced controlled drives to maintain their overall positions. However, Breen did bring the overall gap to his team-mate down to five seconds.

Neuville restored the time he lost on the previous stage by claiming his sixth stage win on SS14, beating Ogier by 1.4s.

Breen kept true to his team orders to set the third fastest time, while Rovanpera again closed on Evans for third overall by reducing the deficit to 3.7s.

The penultimate stage of the afternoon belonged to Ogier, as he stepped up his pursuit of the final podium spot by taking 0.8s out of Evans, who produced the save of the day to prevent a major shunt when he got out of shape on a high speed run into a tight left-hander.

Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Craig Breen, Paul Nagle, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Neuville was third fastest ahead of Rovanpera, who dropped 2.7s to Ogier, bringing the gap to between the pair from four down to 2.5s.

To further assert his authority on the event, Neuville ended the day in fine style with his seventh stage win. The Hyundai driver was 1.1s faster than Rovanpera, who issued a response to the attack from Ogier in the previous two stages.

Tanak showed signs of the pace he can deliver with the third fastest time ahead of Ogier and Breen, who halted his charge to protect position.

M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith’s Saturday concluded in a negative fashion when his Fiesta became stuck in road mode, heavily restricting the power available for the final stage.

In WRC2, Oliver Solberg completed a heroic effort to bring the new Hyundai i20 Rally 2 car home in the lead without power steering.

"I have done 85km without power steering now, and I tell you, it's absolutely crazy,” said Solberg.

The crews will complete a three hour journey to Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday to contest the final four stages of the rally.

Classification after SS14:

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Total Time Gap
1 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:55'18.300  
2 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland Paul Nagle
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:55'24.900 6.600
3 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:55'58.700 40.400
4 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:56'02.400 44.100
5 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:56'07.600 49.300
6 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:59'07.700 3'49.400
7 Sébastien Bedoret
François Gilbert
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 2:05'02.000 9'43.700
8 France Yohan Rossel
Alexandre Coria
Citroën C3 Rally2 2:05'03.900 9'45.600
9 Pieter Jan
Jasper Vermeulen
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 2:05'20.900 10'02.600
10 Belgium Vincent Verschueren
Filip Cuvelier
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 2:05'56.700 10'38.400
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