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Neuville: WRC Croatia not a “disaster” after final day error

Thierry Neuville has expressed his frustration after a crash ended his Croatia Rally victory bid, but the World Rally Championship driver says the event wasn’t a “disaster” for his title hopes.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The Hyundai driver took a 4.9s lead into the final day after winning nine of the 16 stages up to that point, in what was an intense battle with Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

However, both Neuville and Evans hit trouble in stage 18 on Sunday morning, which effectively ended the pair’s victory hopes.

Neuville drifted into a grass bank following a late pacenote call, costing him 23.3s while causing significant damage to the i20N’s rear wing, that left him unable to fight in the remaining two stages.

While frustrated at missing an opportunity to score perhaps one of his finest victories, Neuville was happy to match rival Evans in scoring 19 points and maintain his six-point championship.

“Definitely there is a frustration but on the other hand we have been well rewarded yesterday after our great drive on Friday and Saturday [to score 18 points] and they were important points and they have made the difference,” Neuville told Autosport.

“Despite not scoring many points today we were still the third best performer and equal with Evans and only lost one point to Ott [Tanak]. We can’t say it was a disaster.

“The stage [where we crashed] was really tricky but what happened, happened. I tried my best to avoid it, but we were just far too late and when I got the pacenote I immediately hit the brakes, but the corner was so much tighter and there was nothing I could do.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

“It [the car] was undrivable [without the rear wing], I couldn’t expect it, but it was a disaster. I was driving fast on the last stage and I lost 30 seconds.”

Although happy to lead the championship, Neuville expects a tough battle to hold onto his advantage when the WRC returns to gravel, beginning with Portugal next month.    

“I’m happy to still be in the lead and happy to keep at least our advantage because it is no secret that from Portugal onwards it is going to be tough for us with several gravel rallies in a row,” he added.

“Without really heavy rain or different circumstances, it will be tough for us to score many points on Friday and Saturday but Sunday could be a bit better if we have a better road position.”

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