Neuville muscles his way into victory contention

A dramatic stage has allowed Thierry Neuville to close right in on the leaders

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Thierry Neuville is now less than eight seconds off the lead and just 3.1 seconds from Esapekka Lappi after a drama-filled SS13 in which Sébastien Ogier, and Elfyn Evans, had more water crossing problems.

A huge rainstorm hit the second pass of Su Filigosu during the second half of the route, which threw up a big challenge for those passing through later on such as Lappi, Ogier and Neuville.

Ogier’s Toyota cut out for the second consecutive stage, this time at the same place as Ott Tänak suffered his engine trouble on Saturday morning.

And the front end of his GR Yaris Rally1 was quite damaged thanks to the problems picked up through the water.

This allowed both Lappi and Neuville to close in, with Ogier’s lead slashed to just 4.3s at the stage end.

However the rain-hit stage played more into the hands of Neuville, who looked visibly happy at the stage end as his chase for the front took a major turning point.

“We had very heavy rain in some sections,” Neuville, who beat Ogier by 12.6s, said.

“I don’t know if it’s the same for everybody but we did what we could, that’s the only thing we could do. It felt quite OK but with the rain you never know.”

Despite closing in on the lead it was a very tricky stage for Lappi, who said his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 was struggling on the wet surface.

“For sure, the last six kilometers were horrible,” he explained.

“The ruts were full of water so you couldn’t drive, it was just aquaplaning all the time.”

Evans once again suffered a loss of power to his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 at the exact same place as Ogier.

Coming through the water crossing at the final corner, Evans’ car took too much water onboard, forcing his engine to cut out and making him cross the finish line in EV mode.

“It’s impossible to pass a rally car through there,” he said.

Dani Sordo was also in the wars – his Hyundai cutting out halfway through the stage with insufficient fuel pressure. He managed to switch fuel pump and make it to the end of the test though to remain sixth overall.