Thierry Neuville surged passed WRC title rivals Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tänak at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Saturday in a desperate bid to keep his championship hopes alive.
Stage info: SS10/11
SS10: Gartheiniog 1, 12.61km
Unchanged from 2016 except for the addition of a blisteringly fast opening 1.3km. It climbs and descends throughout and plenty of open sections mean visibility is good and drivers have lots of opportunities to attack hard. The surface is soft, especially near the start, and it is likely to become rutted quickly. Home territory for Elfyn Evans, who lives close by.
SS11: Dyfi 1, 25.86km
Dyfi, in the shadow of the Snowdonia mountains, is a GB classic. It’s fast and smooth, but a thin layer of slime on the surface will keep drivers attentive. A 4km section in the middle is very different to the rest of the test. The roadsides are overgrown with bracken and vegetation and it is even more slippery than the other parts.
The Belgian climbed to second in a Hyundai i20, after claiming second fastest time in Gartheiniog and third in Dyfi (pictured below) to leapfrog both M-Sport Ford Fiestas. He heads Estonian Tänak by 1.2sec with championship leader Ogier a further 6.3sec adrift.
“I tried to push a bit more but it was hard to make a difference because everyone knows these stages. The road in Dyfi was getting more and more slippery so running so far down the start order is difficult,” said Neuville, who admitted sliding wide at a hairpin.
Ogier can secure a fifth straight title this weekend and the Frenchman is not in the mood for gambling on the muddy forest tracks.
“Mentally, I’m not ready to take enough risks. But I have to try a bit more. The only bad result this weekend would be not to score any points,” he said.
Leader Elfyn Evans continued to dominate. The Welshman won both stages to stretch his advantage to 49.3sec. “Today we have the perfect conditions, we couldn’t have wished for better,” said the Welshman, whose Fiesta was fitted with a new range of tyres developed specifically for such weather.
“I tried to be neat and tidy and find the right balance. Dyfi was more slippery than expected but reasonably consistent. It looks like the passage of cars is making things more slippery.”
Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen demoted Kris Meeke to seventh after the Ulsterman touched a bale in a Dyfi chicane and stalled his Citroën C3’s engine.
Latvala continued to tinker with the settings on his Yaris to try to find more confidence. “It’s better on the traction side but still understeering,” said the Finn, who headed Mikkelsen’s i20 by 4.7sec with Meeke a further half second adrift.
Hyundai duo Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon continued to swap positions in eighth and ninth, with the Kiwi holding sway by 7.3sec. Juho Hänninen completed the leaderboard after a great run to second fastest in Dyfi.
Electrical problems affecting the operation of his Fiesta’s centre differential forced Mads Østberg to retire in the regroup after Dyfi.
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