Thierry Neuville heads title-chasing Ott Tanak

Thierry Neuville heads title-chasing Ott Tanak


Thierry Neuville led RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de Espana on Saturday night in a bold bid to carry his FIA World Rally Championship title fight with Ott Tanak into the final round.

He ended the penultimate leg with a 21.5sec advantage over Hyundai i20 team-mate Dani Sordo. Championship leader TAnak lies just 3.1sec further back after demoting Sebastien Loeb's i20 by 0.6sec in the final speed test.

While Neuville's lead looks comfortable with only Sunday's short leg remaining, he is praying his colleagues can repel Tanak's attack which could secure the Estonian a maiden world crown ahead of next month's final round in Australia.

After teams transformed their cars from gravel to asphalt set-up last night for the final two days, Neuville won the opening two speed tests to relegate Loeb, who struggled to replicate the pace he had on yesterday's dirt roads.

The Belgian added another fastest time in the final test to put himself on the cusp of victory. That could prove in vain if Tanak beats Sordo and Loeb, meaning he could secure the crown with bonus points in tomorrow's closing Wolf Power Stage.

"I've done my job so far and my team-mates are really trying to resist, but obviously Tanak was fast this afternoon. We're going to try and finish the job we started yesterday morning and let's see whether Tanak can claim second or if he stays in third," said Neuville.

Tanak, driving a Toyota Yaris, started the day fifth and a run of four stage victories enabled him to close on the Hyundai trio and set his sights on finishing second tomorrow.

"This morning I wasn't feeling too relaxed but now I've been able to learn a bit and get into a rhythm. We would like to keep the pressure, but to take the time back will be difficult," said Tanak.

First and second for Hyundai Motorsport at tomorrow's Salou finish would enhance the Korean squad's manufacturers' championship lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Jari-Matti Latvala was fifth in another Yaris, the Finn a vital cog in Toyota's title chase after team-mate Kris Meeke crashed this morning. After demoting Sordo to climb to third, Meeke drifted wide in a left corner, hit a barrier and ripped off a rear wheel.

The Finn suffered understeer but was 22.4sec clear of a frustrated Elfyn Evans, who struggled for pace in his Ford Fiesta.

Teemu Suninen was seventh in another Fiesta, nearly three minutes clear of Sebastien Ogier's Citroen C3. After yesterday's time loss and with his title hopes in tatters, Ogier focused on test work.

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