Thierry Neuville recovered from a torrid end to Saturday morning at RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España to win the afternoon’s opening speed test. 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.
Top 15 standings for Rally RACC Catalunya – Rally de Espana, the 11th round of the 2017 World Rally Championship, after SS9.
- Kris Meeke GBR Citroen C3 Abu Dhabi WRC 1hr 42m 48s
- Ott Tanak EST M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 +13.5s
- Sebastien Ogier FRA M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 +13.8s
- Dani Sordo ESP Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +14.6s
- Andrea Mikkelsen NOR Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +20.8s
- Juho Hanninen FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +27.6s
- Mads Ostberg NOR M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 +46.6s
- Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +53.1s
- Esapekka Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +1m 17.5s
- Stephane Lefebvre FRA Citroen C3 Abu Dhabi WRC +1m 30.2s
- Elfyn Evans GBR DMACK M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC 17 +2m 06.6s
- Eric Camilli FRA M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 +4m 10.6s
- Teemu Suninen FIN M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 +4m 50.9s WRC2
- Ole Christian Veiby NOR Skoda Fabia R5 +5m 07.8s
- Jan Kopecky CZE Skoda Fabia R5 +5m 54.1s WRC2