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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Neuville edges Ogier in enthralling WRC head-to-head

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Neuville started Saturday afternoon with the rally lead, however two stage wins from Ogier, together with the Frenchman’s 700th profession quickest time, gave the Toyota driver a 0.8s lead over Neuville after the day’s penultimate stage.

However Hyundai’s Neuville responded brilliantly to stun Ogier within the last check and transfer again right into a 3.3s lead, which he’ll take into the ultimate day on Sunday.

Neuville additionally provisionally secured the utmost 18 factors on supply for immediately below a new-for-2024 factors construction that rewards the highest 10 crews. These shall be secured if the Hyundai driver finishes the rally on Sunday, the place a most of seven factors are on supply for the quickest driver by the leg, alongside the addition of 5 bonus factors for the Energy Stage winner.

Ogier, who started the day in third, is ready to attain 15 factors, whereas Friday’s rally chief Evans is poised to financial institution 13 factors in third [+34.9s] following a irritating day.

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak ended a Saturday interrupted by engine points in fourth [+1m46.9s], forward of M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux [+2m54.0s]. Andreas Mikkelsen reclaimed sixth [4m21.2s] from Gregoire Munster, who retired on stage 12. His exit additionally promoted Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta to seventh [+7m34.0s].

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The battle for victory went up a notch when the motion resumed on Saturday afternoon. Ogier declared that he had to drive perfectly to stay in the fight at noon service, and the Frenchman duly delivered.

Ogier produced a blistering effort in stage 12 (Esparron/Oze -18.79km), the second go by the check the place Neuville starred within the morning. This time the Toyota driver managed to beat a dedicated rally chief Neuville, who felt he’d pushed a very good stage, by 5.5s.

Ogier admitted that he took extra danger in posting the time that moved the eight-time world champion to inside 2.2s of the 2020 Monte winner.

Photograph by: Toyota Racing

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Evans began the check in second general however struggled within the stage and in the end conceded 16.9s, which dropped him to 3rd.

“That’s an enormous shock,” stated a shocked Evans. “I’m shocked it’s so unhealthy, it didn’t really feel so nice however that’s a bit continual.”

An identical instances have been set by Tanak and Katsuta, the latter rising in confidence. However for sixth-placed Munster, the stage resulted in heartbreak on the 6.3km mark.

The M-Sport driver ran large on a patch of gravel at a slow-speed left-hander, which resulted in his Puma changing into beached within the limitations to finish his day prematurely.

Ogier continued his impressed cost in stage 13 (Les Nonieres/Chichilianne, 20.04km), which supplied contrasting circumstances. The primary half was dry, earlier than a tunnel separated the dry highway from a moist and slippery closing part.

Clearly with some extent to show, Ogier reeled off a 700th profession stage win. He eclipsed Neuville by 3.0s, which was sufficient to maneuver into the lead of the rally for the primary time this weekend by 0.8s.

“We have to preserve pushing – it’s very shut,” stated Ogier. “It’s very good – we love [the fight] and it’s good for the followers too. There isn’t any time to again off now, there’s simply time to push.”

Evans was unable to match the tempo of Ogier and Neuville for the second consecutive stage. The three-time championship runner-up struggled within the low grip sections and ceded one other 7.6s to his team-mate, as he drifted to 21.9s away from the lead.

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photograph by: Toyota Racing

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Neuville summoned the right reply to Ogier’s tempo by taking out the ultimate stage by 4.1s in gorgeous vogue to surge again into the lead of the rally, whereas Evans dropped one other 13.8s.

“We did a very good stage, it was perfection,” stated Neuville. “Every little thing went effectively and I actually loved the automotive – it was unbelievable.”

In WRC2, Nikolay Gryazin grabbed the lead again from Pepe Lopez within the day’s last stage, the pair have been break up by 0.2s.

The rally will conclude following three phases on Sunday.

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