SS10: Neuville bounces back

Thierry Neuville recovered from a torrid end to Saturday morning at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España to win the afternoon’s opening speed test.

Stage info: SS10

El Montmell 2, 24.40km
El Montmell has a good surface but it’s narrow throughout, and there are some very high-speed cuts to focus drivers’ minds. The opening is extremely quick, with a chicane before Can Ferrer de la Cogullada to reduce speeds. After the village, the route becomes twistier before finishing with a dizzying bend-filled descent known as Les Ventoses. Extended at the finish by 260 metres from 12 months ago.

The Belgian, who dropped more than 40sec after hydraulic problems set in motion a bizarre chain of events, set about climbing back up the leaderboard with fastest time in the second pass through El Montmell.

He edged tying team-mate Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi by a tenth of a second but, more importantly for his WRC title hopes, relegated Mads Østberg to move up to seventh in the overall standings.

“I still struggled a bit with understeer and we can make a few changes but it’s difficult to make a big difference in these conditions. We have to be clever and make sure we stay on the road,” explained the Hyundai i20 driver.

Sordo regained second place as his fight with Ott Tänak and championship leader Sébastien Ogier continued to thrill. He jumped from fourth and had 0.6sec in hand over the Estonian and a 2.5sec advantage over an understeering Ogier.

Tänak now has a gravel-specification gearbox fitted to his Ford Fiesta after the original was replaced at service in Salou following concerns. “It’s quite difficult because it was not meant for driving on asphalt. It’s a challenge for me and I have to try and live with it,” he said.

Leader Kris Meeke was fourth in the stage and the Citroën C3 pilot’s advantage remained unchanged at 13.5sec. “There was quite a lot of pollution. It’s a long time since I’ve been in this position, so I’m just trying to manage it,” he said.

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