Neuville takes control at Rally Spain

Neuville takes control at Rally Spain

16.10.2021: Belgium’s Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe were the class of the field on day two of Rally Spain and extended their lead to 16.4 seconds after 13 timed special stages.


Belgium’s Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe were the class of the field on day two of Rally Spain and extended their lead to 16.4 seconds after 13 timed special stages.
 



The Hyundai i20 crew won all but one (tied with Ogier in SS11) of the day’s seven timed tests - six of which took place over sinuous tarmac roads in the hills to the north-west of Salou - and remain on course to give the Belgian a 15th career WRC win.
 


“When everything is going the right way it is a pleasure to drive” said Neuville. “It was not an easy day. Conditions were tricky this morning with the fog and the very dirty stages. I relied on information from my route note crew and we made some small changes. We set six fastest times, so that is not so bad.”
 


Welshman Elfyn Evans struggled to match Neuville after dominating the early exchanges on Friday. The Toyota Yaris driver retained a comfortable second place, but team-mate Sébastien Ogier found a pleasing car set-up for the afternoon’s loop of three stages and Evans’s hold on second was 22.3 seconds at the end of the day.
 


Should the seven-time World Champion manage to beat the Welshman by more than seven points on Sunday, he will seal an eighth title in nine seasons with a rally to spare.  
 


Dani Sordo’s hopes of sealing another podium finish on his home event hung in the balance after he failed to make in-roads into Ogier’s hold on third until the Frenchman stalled on the Salou stage. At the end of the day, the fourth-placed Spaniard trailed the Frenchman by just 1.2 seconds.
 


When a puncture and damage to the front of the Ford Fiesta put paid to Adrien Fourmaux’s challenge for fifth place, Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä was able to ease his pace somewhat and take few risks.
 


Young Oliver Solberg remains on course for a career-best finish in his Hyundai, although a clutch issue and a disastrous run through the Salou street stage saw Gus Greensmith move back ahead of the Swede in the leading Ford and into sixth, despite a puncture of his own during the day. Hyundai’s Nil Solans holds a solid eighth on his WRC debut in a World Rally Car.
 


Eric Camilli maintained his WRC2 advantage throughout the day but Nikolay Gryazin pegged the Frenchman back on the second loop of stages and the gap was just 9.7 seconds at the night halt in Salou.
 


Emil Lindholm continued to stay ahead of Spain’s Pepe López and Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz in WRC3 and fellow Finn Sami Pajari held the lead in the Juniors and was on course for the title after series leader Jon Armstrong left the road on two occasions and retired for the day in SS12.
 




Saturday – as it happened

 


Just seven-tenths of a second separated Neuville and Evans at the start of the 14.08km of the Savallà stage. Katsuta was given the task of opening proceedings, but chassis damage had forced Hyundai to withdraw Ott Tänak’s damaged i20 after his accident on SS4.
 


Solans set the early target time of 7min 30.1sec but Tänak’s 2019 stage record of 7min 25.2sec was eclipsed by Rovanperä’s run of 7min 25.0sec, despite damp sections and tricky fog patches.
 


Evans beat the Finn (7min 24.2sec) but Neuville claimed the stage record with a 7min 22.5sec and extended his lead to 2.4 seconds. Camilli increased his WRC2 advantage over Gryazin to 12.6 seconds but a five-minute stoppage for Armstrong dropped the Briton from first to fifth in the Junior category and handed the advantage to Pajari.
 


A sprint through the 19.17km Querol-Les Pobles stage followed. Fourmaux set a stunning target of 10min 31.3sec and that time was only surpassed by rally leader Neuville. The Belgian was able to extend his advantage over Evans to 6.7 seconds.
 


Camilli and Lindholm continued to lead in WRC2 and WRC3 and Pajari’s chance of winning the Junior category gathered momentum when Martins Sesks stopped in the special.  
 


El Montmell (24.40km) was the longest stage of the rally and was a stage to forget for Greensmith. A rear-left puncture cost the Briton over a minute and he slipped two places to ninth behind Solberg and Solans.
 


Rovanperä survived a huge moment in the middle of the stage, as a flying Sordo reduced Ogier’s grip on third to just 0.2 seconds. Despite still complaining of under steering issues on his i20, another fastest time enabled Neuville to move nine seconds ahead of Evans on the return to Salou for midday service.
 


Warmer and brighter conditions greeted crews to the start of Savallá 2. Rovanperä was again impressive to consolidate fifth and a fired up Ogier moved another three seconds clear of Sordo in the battle for third. Evans finished 0.7 seconds behind his team-mate but ceded another 2.1 seconds to Neuville and the Belgian increased his lead to 11.1 seconds.
 


A re-run of Querol-Les Pobles followed and several of the early WRC drivers beat their morning runs with Greensmith shaving 8.1 seconds off his first pass.
 


Fourmaux clouted a roadside barrier, stopped to change a wheel and then suffered the ignominy of not being able to select drive to restart. He was passed by Rovanperä and then managed to restart slowly before Sordo arrived at the scene. The Spaniard soon overtook the struggling Ford but he dropped another 2.4 seconds to Ogier, who caught Fourmaux at the stage finish. Agonisingly, Fourmaux dropped nearly nine minutes in the stage and crashed out of the top 15.
 


Neuville tied with Ogier and his outright advantage over Evans grew to 12.7 seconds, while Gryazin took advantage of Camilli’s decision to run with two spare wheels and reduced the Frenchman’s grip on the WRC2 lead to 10.5 seconds.
 


A repeat of El Montmell marked the last of the day’s gravel stages. Fourmaux worked frantically to change a steering arm and remove a drive shaft on the road section to the start. Team-mate Greensmith finished the stage with a temperature sensor light on the dash of his Fiesta, while Fourmaux struggled to the end with the loss of another 70 seconds.  
 



In the fight for the podium, Sordo and Ogier continued to trade seconds and Ogier again won the tussle and extended his grip on third to 6.9 seconds. A fastest time also reduced Evans’s hold on second place to 18 seconds, as Neuville headed to the street stage along the seafront in Salou with a lead of 14.2 seconds.
 


A time-consuming clutch issue cost Solberg his sixth place to Greensmith on the seafront but Sordo was the man with a smile on his face at the end of the day. He beat Ogier by 5.7 seconds on the street stage and reduced the margin to just 1.2 seconds. Another fastest time for Neuville gave the Belgian an overnight lead of 16.4 seconds.
 


Crews will tackle a couple of runs through two short stages on Sunday morning, culminating in a second pass through Ruidecanyas (16.35km) that will act as the all-important and televised Power Stage.
 



2021 Rally Spain – positions after SS13 (@18.30hrs):



1. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC        2hr 03min 45.7sec
2. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC                                  2hr 04min 02.1sec
3. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Toyota Yaris WRC                  2hr 04min 24.4sec
4. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Cándido Carrera (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC                        2hr 04min 25.6sec
5. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC                  2hr 04min 58.0sec
6. Gus Greensmith (GBR)/Chris Patterson (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC                     2hr 07min 30.9sec
7. Oliver Solberg (NOR)/Craig Drew (GBR) Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC                             2hr 07min 31.6sec
8. Nil Solans (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC                                             2hr 07min 39.5sec
9. Eric Camilli (FRA)/Maxime Vilmot (FRA) Citroën C3                                               2hr 11min 38.5sec
10. Nikolay Gryazin (RAF)/Konstantin Aleksandrov (RAF) Škoda Fabia Evo                 2hr 11min 48.2sec



 
 
 
 - Neil Perkins, photos Hyundai, Toyota
 
 
 
 




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16.10.2021 / MaP

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