WRC Spain: Neuville in command as Ogier fights back

Thierry Neuville has emerged as the firm favourite to win the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship following a dominant Saturday at Rally Spain.

WRC Spain: Neuville in command as Ogier fights back

The Hyundai driver was untouchable at times winning six of the day’s seven stages on Spain’s fast tarmac roads to pull 16.4s clear of Toyota’s Elfyn Evans heading into Sunday’s final four stages.

After winning Stage 4 on Friday afternoon, Neuville rattled off eight consecutive stage wins before championship leader Ogier ended the streak on Stage 12. 

Evans ended the day in a comfortable second crucially 22.3s ahead of championship leader Ogier, where the Welshman needs to stay to take the title fight to the final round at Italy’s Rally Monza.

While set-up tweaks backfired for Evans, wholesale changes to Ogier’s Yaris had the opposite effect as the seven-time champion eased away from Hyundai’s Dani Sordo in the battle for third.

However, a stall on the final spectator stage on the Salou streets left Ogier only 1.2s ahead of fourth-placed Sordo. 

Kalle Rovanpera completed Saturday in fifth with Gus Greensmith jumping Oliver Solberg on the final test to grab sixth overall, after M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux hit trouble.  

Despite facing a much dirtier road due to gravel being pulled onto the surface from the cuts, Neuville’s relentless pace continued, winning Stage 10 by 1.4s from an improving Ogier.

"It isn't easy at all, especially in this one, said Neuville. “The road was much more dirty than the information I had. Obviously we are tenth on the road, so the conditions are changing quite a lot."

Ogier issued a response to the challenge posed by Sordo in the fight for third overall, taking 3.0s out of his local rival to open up the gap between the pair.

"I tried a bit harder for sure, said Ogier. “I have a new set-up with the car and it's a little bit better."

Evans was only third fastest, dropping 2.1s to Neuville as the gap to the lead extended out to 11.1s. 

"Some things are better, some things are not so good to be honest,” said Evans. “We're struggling in a few areas.”

Ogier’s improved speed was evident once again in Stage 11 as he and Neuville clocked identical times to share the stage win.

The time for Ogier eased the gap back to Sordo after taking another 2.4s from the Spaniard.

Ogier’s time came despite catching Fourmaux, who suffered a drama in the stage. The M-Sport driver clipped a barrier which sent him into half spin, damaging his front left. After losing seven minutes changing the wheel, he eventually trundled to the stage end.   

At the front, Neuville continued to pull away from Evans, who was 1.6s shy of the rally leader.

Ogier ended Neuville’s run of eight consecutive stage wins by taking out Stage 12, a second pass through the longest stage of the rally.

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

Making the most of several set-up changes, the Frenchman laid down an impressive time, 1.2s faster than Neuville. Sordo reached the stage end with the third fastest time but was concerned by Ogier’s pace. 

"It's a little bit hard this afternoon, said Sordo. “We started to have 'Sebastien Ogier mode' - he is pushing. “We tried to push as well, but this afternoon he is taking a little bit of time. For me, in this stage I did my maximum so I am quite happy.”

Evans lost more time as his decision to alter the set-up on his Yaris backfired. 

"It's been a frustrating afternoon." said Evans. “We gambled to try and change some stuff to improve the car for the afternoon, but it didn't work unfortunately and we've gone in the opposite direction.”

The returning Takamoto Katsuta after his retirement yesterday showed signs confidence in his Yaris was coming back by clocking the fifth fastest time.

However, there was drama for both M-Sport runners as Fourmaux could only complete the stage with a two-wheel drive Fiesta after being forced to remove a driveshaft following his incident on the previous test. Team-mate Greensmith lost time due to a sensor issue on his Fiesta.   

Neuville closed out the day with a sixth stage win in front of a bumper crowd on the spectator stage in Salou.

Neuville was 0.8s faster than Sordo with Evans third quickest, albeit 2.2s slower than the rally leader.

The technical street stage provided plenty of drama as Ogier, Solberg and Nil Solans stalled their cars. The incidents caused Ogier to lose 6.5s, while Solberg dropped from sixth to seventh in the standings.   

Rally Spain concludes on Sunday with crews set to face four more stages. 

shares
comments

Related video

WRC Spain: Neuville pulls clear of Evans on Saturday morning
Previous article

WRC Spain: Neuville pulls clear of Evans on Saturday morning

Next article

Ogier “never changed so much on car” to find WRC Rally Spain sweet spot

Ogier “never changed so much on car” to find WRC Rally Spain sweet spot
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Plus

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
17 h
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Plus

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, Autosport picks out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Plus

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged out of Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Plus

How Ogier emerged out of Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Plus

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Plus

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Plus

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Autosport went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021