Thierry Neuville battled back into second place at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Sunday morning in a determined effort to keep his FIA World Rally Championship hopes alive.
Stage info: SS17/18
SS17: Alwen 1, 10.41km
Alwen is quite different in nature to other Rally GB tests, with plenty of long straights leading into square junctions. It is wide and fast and forest work has removed trees, which increases the visibility for drivers but also makes the roads harder to read. The surface is smooth and compact.
SS18: Brenig 1, 6.43km
The spectacular roads around Llyn Brenig provide picture postcard scenery. The stage skirts the lake for the first few kilometres which are in the open, meaning the surface is quite dry. After blasting past last year’s podium area on top of the dam, the test drops downhill before turning onto asphalt and then onto a service road for the Brenig facilities to the finish.
Third in the opening Alwen speed test promoted the Belgian ahead of title favourite Sébastien Ogier. Second in the following Brenig stage left Neuville with a 3.7sec advantage in his Hyundai i20 over the Frenchman’s Ford Fiesta.
“I did a good start of the stage,” Neuville said after Brenig. “The end is getting dirty and I was a bit too careful. I tried to keep it clean but at the same time we need to go faster than Ogier.”
Ogier is coming under threat from Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota Yaris and the i20 of Andreas Mikkelsen, who was fastest in Brenig. The trio is covered by just 5.3sec and Ogier is desperate to hang onto third.
“Everyone is flat out and we have to keep pushing as well. It’s very slippery this morning,” said Ogier, who is bidding to secure his fifth consecutive world title today.
The points permutations are numerous, but second overall and maximum Power Stage points for Neuville would keep the championship fight alive until next month’s final round in Australia if Ogier retains third and fails to score any bonus points.
Elfyn Evans downed a hearty breakfast of porridge, eggs and bacon before netting fourth in Alwen and a lowly 11th in Brenig in his rally-leading Ford Fiesta. His advantage was 46.3sec with three stages remaining.
“Very mixed conditions this morning. In some places the grip was OK and in other places it was very, very slippery. I’m still trying to keep a good rhythm and not take any risks,” explained the Welshman.