Welshman Elfyn Evans faces a frustrating month’s delay before he can make his final bid to win this year’s FIA World Rally Championship after an unsettled run in Spain at the weekend.
Thierry Neuville stormed to his second FIA World Rally Championship victory of the season with a commanding display at RallyRACC – Rally de España on Sunday afternoon.
The Belgian took control of the penultimate round with eight straight fastest times in his Hyundai i20 across the middle of the three-day asphalt rally to secure back-to-back Spanish victories by 24.1 sec.
Second place for Elfyn Evans in a Toyota Yaris means the fight for the 2021 drivers’ title goes to a final round decider in Monza, Italy at the end of next month. He headed Dani Sordo’s i20 by 11.2sec and trails team-mate Sébastien Ogier by 17 points. A maximum 30 remain available.
After demoting Evans from the lead on Saturday morning, Neuville’s progress at the front was serene until a big scare ahead of the closing Wolf Power Stage.
A starter motor problem meant co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe pushed their i20 into the regroup before the stage. The crew managed to restart the car and tackled the test without further problems, but the incident clearly rattled Neuville.
“I’m relieved to be at the end,” he admitted. “It was a tough weekend, but we fought very hard. We had a good clean run and, until near the end, everything was perfect.
“Unfortunately, lots of stress before the last stage. I am really disappointed about that because otherwise the weekend would have been perfect and nice, but now it isn’t.”
Evans felt uncomfortable on dirty roads when the smooth asphalt speed tests in the Costa Daurada hills were tackled for a second time, but the Welshman has slashed the deficit to Ogier from 44 points with victory in Finland earlier this month and second here.
He tried a variety of set-up changes to no avail but had enough pace to stay ahead of a charging Sordo, who won all four of Sunday’s special stages to demote Ogier and claim the final podium place.