Spain WRC: Neuville takes dominant win, Evans keeps title hopes alive

Thierry Neuville produced one of the drives of the season to claim a dominant Rally Spain win over Elfyn Evans, who kept his Word Rally Championship title hopes alive.

Along with co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai’s Neuville was at times untouchable across the all tarmac event to see off Evans by 24.1s, claiming a second win of the season following a triumph at Belgium in August.

Evans led the rally on Friday morning but a string of eight consecutive stage wins saw Neuville assert his authority, transforming a 0.7s lead heading into Saturday into a healthy advantage over his Toyota rival, who struggled to find the sweet spot with his Yaris.

A measured drive from Neuville across Sunday’s four stages brought home a crushing win, despite late drama. The Belgian’s i20 had trouble firing up with a starter motor issue and was pushed to the regroup before completing the final stage, which was also doused by a rain shower.

A second place for Evans ensured the WRC title fight will be decided at next month’s Rally Monza after championship leader Sebastien Ogier finished fourth behind Hyundai’s home hero Dani Sordo, who pipped the Frenchman to the final podium on Sunday.

Ogier leads Evans by 17 points in the championship after Evans saw off his rival on the Power Stage. A one-two for Hyundai on the Power Stage also ensured the manufacturers’ title battle between Toyota and Hyundai will be decided in Monza.

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera ended his first Rally Spain in a WRC car in fifth, ahead of M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith and the Hyundai pair of Oliver Solberg and WRC debutant Nil Solans, who drove cleanly throughout.

While Neuville backed off slightly to protect his lead, Sunday belonged to his teammate Sordo, who won the opening two stages of the day.

The Spaniard picked a up a third stage win of the event after winning the penultimate test, a repeat of Santa Marina that was held in the dark earlier this morning.

Sordo was 0.7s faster than Ogier to further extend his advantage to 2.3s over the Frenchman in the fight for third.

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

"We will keep on doing what we can.” said Ogier, who was able to risk everything with the manufacturers title on the line for Toyota. “We had a good drive in this stage but we can see that we are missing a bit of speed anyway.”

Neuville posted the third fastest time, 0.7s quicker than rally rival Evans, who was fifth fastest.

"I think the car is working a bit better now, but there are so many horrible cuts in here that we are airing on the side of caution,” said Evans. “They all count, so we need to try [in the power stage].

After losing several minutes due to an error on Saturday, Adrien Fourmaux showed strong pace to match Neuville’s time.

Sordo completed a clean sweep of stage wins by taking out the Power Stage in treacherous greasy conditions.

Sordo took the bonus five points after edging rally winner Neuville by 1.4s while Evans produced an impressive fightback to take another point out of Ogier.

In the end, only 0.3s split the pair after Evans came from behind on the splits to jump his rival, as Rovanpera climbed the final point.

In WRC2, Eric Camilli took the class victory from Nikolay Grayazin by 16.5s. Despite this not being one of his designated events, Andreas Mikkelsen has lifted the WRC2 championship title after rival Mads Ostberg could only finish fourth in Spain.

The World Rally Championship will head to Italy for the Rally Monza finale from 18-21 November.

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