Neuville on Tänak

Thierry Neuville admits he feared the worst if he had tried to match Ott Tänak’s blistering pace in Sunday morning’s victory shootout at Orlen 74th Rally Poland.

Tänak threw caution to the wind in the opening Orzysz speed test. On roads made greasy by persistent rain, he blitzed Neuville by 4.9sec to regain a slender lead in his Ford Fiesta with three stages remaining.

Neuville was shocked by Tänak’s speed, and his decision not to try to out-gun him paid off when the Estonian made a mistake and crashed in the following Paprotki stage.

Neuville could finally relax after an edge-of-the-seat battle in which the lead changed hands on 10 occasions, easing to his third win of the season by 1min 23.9sec in his Hyundai i20.

“I said to Nicolas (co-driver Gilsoul) after the first stage that Ott had pushed hard and taken some risks,” said Neuville.

“There were some spectators who had come out of the stage and they saw him pass in a very tricky place, very fast and absolutely over the limit. I knew he was pushing and I knew if I tried to do more it would be dangerous, so I kept the rhythm and he made a mistake.”

Victory was Neuville’s sixth straight podium, enabling him to slash Sébastien Ogier’s championship lead to 11 points. The Belgian is optimistic about his title chances with five rounds remaining.

“The main goal, and the only goal we had this weekend, was to finish ahead of Sébastien, if possible with the biggest margin of points,” he said.

“As long as we continue like this we can be in the lead at the end of the year. If we are leading at the end of the last stage of the last rally, then it is enough.”

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