Neuville running out of ideas to catch Rovanperä for second

The battle for second is yet to ramp up as Thierry Neuville suggested he may not catch Kalle Rovanperä


Sébastien Ogier has won his third stage in a row on Rally Spain, as Thierry Neuville has admitted he’s running out of options to make inroads on Kalle Rovanperä in second.

It’s been almost an entire calendar year since Ogier last won a World Rally Championship round but he’s now edging closer to racking up a first victory since last season’s finale in Monza.

His form on Saturday has simply been metronomic, winning all but one of the stages that ran in full thus far.

“It feels really good, I really enjoyed the stages,” said Ogier. “As long as we stay out of trouble, it should be [OK]. But you never know what can happen so we have to keep doing the same.”

A potential battle for second place has remain somewhat stuck, as Kalle Rovanperä has been doing just enough to fend off Thierry Neuville thus far.

Newly crowned world champion Rovanperä is effectively driving at nine-tenths, minimizing risk while hoping to do just enough to keep Neuville at bay: “I can’t do much more if I don’t want to take any crazy risks,” he said. “I can be quite happy that we’re staying in the fight.”

Despite starting the morning in a combative mood Neuville now appears consigned to trailing the lead Toyotas, as he’s running out of ideas to make his i20 N Rally1 any faster.

“I’m changing the setup between each stage and I can’t find anything that gives us more speed,” Neuville said. “We’re going to try again for the next one but it’s all we can do at the moment.”


Ott Tänak was at least faster than his team-mate on Querol and reduced the deficit to the lead Hyundai to 11.1s, though he showed little optimism to chase after his team-mate.

“Nothing has changed, [I’m] just having fun for myself,” he said.

Behind the top four, a string of fairly miserable faces pulled into finish control feeling disappointed with their own efforts.

Fifth-placed Dani Sordo has at least pegged the chasing Toyota of Elfyn Evans back for now, going 0.4s faster than the third GR Yaris Rally1 to increase his advantage over sixth place to 5.3s.

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After a disappointing morning, Sordo’s spirits had finally lifted somewhat: “It looks a little bit better [than this morning] because the time I lost was not normal. We improve all the time and it’s good, quite happy. I would like to fight for more but for now it’s better than this morning.”

Evans meanwhile appeared consigned to his fate of being mired in the midfield: “It’s not a huge surprise,” he said. “It wasn’t a great run to be honest on our side. Still struggling.”

That could have opened up an opportunity for Craig Breen but instead he was 2.4s slower, appearing to be in car preservation mode and taking no risks whatsoever given his mid-season run of crashes.

“[Giving] everything I’ve got, no,” he said when asked if he was at maximum pace. “I’ve tried that for the last six months and it hasn’t gone so well.”

“I was very cautious at the beginning of the stage; I tried to keep a bit of life in the tires. The second half of the stage was better than this morning but still work to do, definitely.”

Any potential battle for eighth place appears to have fizzled out, as Takamoto Katsuta pulled out another 2.2s on Adrien Fourmaux.

While that pushed Katsuta’s gap up to 12.9s, he seemed more concerned about crowds gathering at service tomorrow morning than the M-Sport car trying to chase him down.

“Tomorrow morning I try to do again same breakfast and then we see how many people are watching me and complaining about me. I am quite looking forward for that,” Katsuta said, his unusual breakfast configuration seemingly the talk of the rally after the lead battle began to stagnate.