In the second part of our RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España review, we look back at a stage that could prove to have a big influence on the title fight, and reflect on a heart-stopping moment for Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi.
Stage of the rally
With only a three-point gap between Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville at the top of the drivers’ championship, the outcome of Spain’s Power Stage battle could prove crucial at the end of the season.
Neuville knew he had to secure as many bonus points as possible to keep pace with his M-Sport Ford rival. Pushing his Hyundai to the limit, the Belgian’s risky strategy bit back when he hit a rock and shattered a wheel. That meant he scored zero bonus points.
With Ogier securing four extra points – only denied a full five by a masterful display from Ott Tänak – Neuville has it all to do during the Kennards Hire Rally Australia title decider.
Save of the rally
Sliding sideways at nearly 100kph, Esapekka Lappi must have thought his rally was about to come to a premature end on SS13.
Miraculously, the Finn managed to gather up his Toyota Yaris and keep it out of the trees and the rocky banks lining either side of the stage. The reward? Only losing 14.8sec and making it to the finish unscathed.
We still can't work out how he avoided disaster, judge it for yourself with this Fan Cam footage:
Quote of the rally
While leading the drivers’ championship brings positives, a major negative is assuming the role of road sweeper during the opening leg.
Thierry Neuville has had a lot of experience of that in recent rallies, regularly complaining about cleaning the loose gravel stages on Friday.
His plight didn't garner much sympathy from Sébastien Ogier, who knows a thing or two about opening the road. He said: "Welcome to my world, Thierry!"
Turning Point of the rally
With 12.7sec covering the top-five on Sunday morning and the weather raising questions with strategies, tyre choice for the morning loop was crucial.
The asphalt stages were drying after overnight rain and most went for soft tyres – except for Loeb. The Frenchman made a last-minute decision to go for hard compound rubber. What a choice it turned out to be.
Dominant wins on Riudecanyes and Santa Marina allowed Loeb to build an unbridgeable gap to the chasing pack and set him well on his way to a 79th WRC victory.