Neuville gains on Evans amid damage intrigue

Stage win for Neuville closes up battle for second - and Neuville thinks Evans is carrying damage


Thierry Neuville set up a final-stage battle for second on Rally México by carving time out of Elfyn Evans again with just the powerstage remaining.

Evans’s advantage – which had grown on the preceding Otates stage to what felt like an almost secure five seconds – is now just 2.7s.

The penultimate stage of the weekend was a 7.8-mile run through the San Diego stage, and for most it was a case of just making it through with only the powerstage to come.

But just a few meters into the stage Evans had a big moment, when his Toyota’s back end stepped out after one corner, showing how much he was pushing to try to keep Neuville at bay.

That slight mistake could prove costly, with the Toyota driver dropping some crucial time in the battle for second and now under more pressure than he would have liked heading to the final run of the weekend.

At the end of the stage, Neuville suggested that Evans was suffering with a suspension issue that he was trying to repair on the road section.

“I continue pushing. We won’t give up,” he said.

“Elfyn has been fixing his car – he touched something and damaged his suspension in the previous stage.

“He is going to have to be brave to go flat out and risk everything.”

However Evans gave nothing away about Neuville’s suggestion once he pulled up to the stage end, saying everything was OK with his GR Yaris Rally1.

Sebastien Ogier

Ahead of them Sébastien Ogier looks set to take a record-breaking seventh win on Rally México, leading by 22.5s.

For Kalle Rovanperä it has been a very quiet weekend and he sits in fourth with Neuville a further 1m25.6s up the road and Dani Sordo over a minute behind.

There looked to be some trouble for Takamoto Katsuta, who stopped straight after the flying finish and looked down with an expression of concern at his dashboard.

But when asked what the issue was, the Toyota driver played down the problem.

“It’s all okay,” he said, “I am just making sure of a few things. But it’s all okay.”

Pierre-Louis Loubet nearly had another episode of drama on SS22, when the rear-end of his Ford Puma Rally1 got very close to sliding to an embankment.

And following his flat tire on the previous stage, the M-Sport driver is short of a spare one.

“It wasn’t so easy, but it was like the previous stage – like driving on ice,” he surmised.

“Staying on the road is tricky. We did a clean run in this one but I have no spare wheel, so I was very careful.”

Sebastien Ogier

Words:Adam Proud