Thierry Neuville has dropped over one minute behind the fight for the lead on Rally Portugal, nursing a broken front-left driveshaft through Mortágua in bizarre circumstances.
Hyundai’s leading light in the drivers’ championship had started Friday’s penultimate stage only seven seconds behind rally leader Elfyn Evans.
But Neuville lost a minute and a half as he traversed Mortágua with only three powered wheels, the ultimate cause of which remains somewhat unclear.
“I lost the wheel on the road section, I had to fix it. But I had a damaged driveshaft,” said a flustered Neuville.
Said issue dropped Neuville from second to seventh overall, which would have been eighth had M-Sport’s Craig Breen not suffered a drama of his own.
Breen ran too deep in a quick left-hander only a few corners from the finish of Mortágua, clattering a bank and spinning his Ford Puma out.
Such was the amount of dust on the stage, it took Breen several seconds to figure out whether he was pointing in the right direction, eventually losing 53.8s to stage winner Kalle Rovanperä.
Elfyn Evans continues to lead despite being “a bit conservative” but with Neuville out, Toyota team-mate and championship leader Rovanperä is now only 10.7s behind in second place.
With Neuville out, Pierre-Louis Loubet was in the box seat to inherit third place.
But like his M-Sport team-mate Breen, Loubet also ran wide at a left-hander, going down a ditch, getting stuck, then driving into another ditch when trying to get going again, which filled the cockpit of his Puma with dust.
Neuville’s issues combined with two punctures for Ott Tänak earlier on Friday has now elevated Dani Sordo to being the lead Hyundai, inheriting third place thanks to issues for others.
Sordo now leads a three-way tussle for the final podium place with Takamoto Katsuta’s Toyota and Gus Greensmith, who is now the best-placed M-Sport runner in fifth.
Despite his off Loubet has dropped only as far as sixth, 11.5s off team-mate Greensmith.
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 12m01.7s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +3.4s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.5s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +9.8s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +15.7s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +18.8s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +20.6s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +36.9s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai) +42.9s
- Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +45.5s
Leading positions after SS8
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 1h23m05.6s
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +10.7s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +42.5s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +48.8s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +56.9s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +1m08.4s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m32.0s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1m46.3s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +2m02.7s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +3m37.5s