Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team had a rough day in Rallye Deutschland but Thierry Neuville produced another sterling performance
Thierry Neuville produced another sterling performance on the third day of competition at ADAC Rallye Deutschland today. Continuing to impress behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the Belgian goes into the final day just 0.8 seconds adrift of the lead.
When rally-leader Jari-Matti Latvala’s event came to an untimely end on SS12, Neuville was propelled into the overall lead. Unfortunately, the same corner that caused his rival so much woe threatened to do the same to the Belgian. Although making it through the stage, he and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had been forced wide in the treacherous conditions and suffered damage to the exhaust of their Fiesta RS WRC.
Thanks to a big effort from the crew on the liaison section, the pairing made the necessary repairs to aid a supreme drive through SS13. Limiting the time loss, Neuville ends Day 3 in the same position as yesterday, albeit less than a second shy of the lead this time around.
Also falling foul to the horrendous conditions on SS12, Qatar World Rally Team driver Mads Østberg slid off the road just over five kilometres into the stage. The loose-surface specialist had been going well in a strong fifth place, but unable to right his stricken Fiesta, he and co-driver Jonas Andersson had to settle for ninth position and Rally 2.
In the second Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta, there was misfortune too for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini. On course for their best ever result on Tarmac, the pairing were forced to retire for the day on the first pass of ‘Arena Panzerplatte’ (SS12). Hitting a rock when cutting a tight, 90-degree junction, the pairing damaged the steering of their Fiesta and currently hold 15th place overall.
By contrast, Qatar World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov was making the most of his risk-free strategy. As the front-runners faltered, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor kept their Fiesta RS WRC firmly on the road. Acting as some consolation for their time loss on the opening day, the pairing now find themselves in a points-scoring tenth position.
Elsewhere, in WRC 2, Elfyn Evans continued to put in an outstanding performance behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5. In an epic battle with Robert Kubica, the pairing traded the lead no fewer than four times throughout the day.
Currently holding the runner-up spot, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt go into tomorrow’s final day with a 7.8 second deficit to the Formula 1 race-winner. More impressively however, the Welshman is on course to equal his best ever result of sixth place overall and crown a fantastic showing for the Ford Fiesta R5 on its asphalt debut in the WRC.
Thierry Neuville (2nd) said: “It was a difficult afternoon. Where we had the problem on SS12, I was already 20km/h slower than usual but I think we should have probably been another 20km/h slower than that! We were very lucky because it could have been easy to lose the whole rally there.
“Jari-Matti [Latvala] had brought a lot of mud onto the road which sent me sliding wide. We hit a log pile which damaged the exhaust and left us slightly down-on-power for the remainder of the loop. But I think we managed the situation well and we achieved the maximum in the circumstances.
“We are definitely going to push tomorrow and we will attack from the start. But we won’t take any unnecessary risks – especially if the weather is as tricky as it was this afternoon. We need to be clever and keep all four wheels on the road. It will not be an easy day, but we are ready to fight and give it our all.”
Mads Østberg (9th) said: “It was so slippery on the first stage [this afternoon, SS12] and we slid off the road. We lost the back end of the car about five kilometres into the stage and got pulled down into a ditch. There was hardly any damage to the car and it would have been no problem to continue, but we were completely stuck. We tried with the spectators to get the car back on the road, but it just wasn’t moving at all.
“Obviously it’s a big shame because we were in a really strong fifth place. But this is rallying and these things happen – we’ll just have to come back tomorrow and drive our best.”
Evgeny Novikov (10th) said: “It was very slippery out on the stages so we didn’t take any risks at all. That strategy has worked for us these past two days and we’re back in the points now which is a good thing.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (14th) said: “We hit a stone on the inside of a tight 90-degree junction on SS11 and unfortunately that was the end of the day for us. It was a real disappointment because we were on course for another strong result and the car and Michelin tyres were both working really well for us.
“As I said it is a huge shame for us, but Thierry [Neuville] is still in the hunt for victory. He has been driving really well and even with some problems this afternoon, he overcame them. I really hope that he can hold on to his position and push for victory tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (2nd in WRC 2) said: “We took it quite cautiously in both stages this afternoon [SS12 and SS13]. We didn’t take any unnecessary risks at all really. But on the second one [SS13] especially there was a bit more grip on offer and we didn’t make the most of it. We were too careful, and Robert [Kubica] pushed on so he got a big advantage over us on that stage.
“There is still a long stage to run twice tomorrow so it is not over by any means. There is still all to play for and we’ll be aiming to claim that time back.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “I’m relieved that Thierry [Neuville] made it back to service – and with so little time lost! He drove the last 10km of SS12 with a tree trunk hanging out of the back of the car which cost him a little bit of performance through the next stage, so we are pleased to be going into the final day so close to the lead. Tomorrow there can only be one goal – we are going to push and try to claim the victory.”
Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team