Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville believes Toyota rivals Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans can afford to back off slightly in the fight for the World Rally Championship title while he needs to take “extra risks” to haul himself back into play.
Neuville trails points leader Ogier by 56 points with six rounds of the 2021 season gone and six remaining. Last month’s Safari Rally Kenya was particularly damaging as Neuville was leading the rally before a rear-right damper failed on the first stage of the final morning.
Neuville believes that if he had secured the Kenyan result he “deserved,” then “the championship fight would be much more on than it is now”. But as it stands, he has admitted “it’s going to be tough”.
Asked ahead of this week’s Rally Estonia whether his deficit – which equates to over two maximum scores behind – was recoverable, Neuville told DirtFish: “If you look at the picture now, we know that the last weekend was a bit of a hard point in the championship.
“I don’t think it was a turning point, but everything’s going to be much tougher now to fight back because they [Toyota] have a bit of a gap and they can control a bit more and can accept as well to finish second or third with the cars.
“If they see that we are very strong they can just try to finish second and third or third and fourth and get those points.”
Neuville knows he will need to risk more to win as if he finishes behind the two Toyotas on upcoming events his “chances get even smaller and smaller every time”.
He explained: “The only point which is very obvious is if you are in a fight with one of the Toyota drivers during an event and you are getting close to the end of the rally, you can take more risks because you know that anyhow finishing behind will be even worse now for the championship.
“And if you want to continue keeping a chance for the championship you know you need to be at the front. So you can take those extra risks, either losing everything or being at the front because if you anyhow finish behind your chances get even smaller and smaller every time.
“It might be difficult but I take all the risks now to go and finish ahead and keep my chances alive. It’s the only thing we can do. Trying to win? We do that every time.”