Neuville wins - Evans closes championship gap

Thierry Neuville took control of the penultimate round of the 2021 championship with eight straight fastest times in his Hyundai i20 across the middle of the three-day asphalt rally to secure back-to-back Spain victories by 24.1 sec. Second place for Elfyn Evans in a Toyota Yaris means the fight for the drivers' title goes to a final round decider in Italy next month. Evans headed Dani Sordo's i20 by 11.2sec and trails team-mate Sébastien Ogier by 17 points with 30 points available at Monza.

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 when a starter motor problem meant co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe had to push 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.

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 slashed the deficit to Ogier from 44 points with victory in Finland earlier this month and now second in Spain. Ogier 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.

Ogier, pursuing his eighth title in nine seasons, struggled for pace in the first half of the rally. While set-up changes gave the Frenchman fresh heart, but he could not hold off the Spaniard.

Neuville and Sordo's 1-2 in the bonus points-paying Power Stage means the fight between leader Toyota Gazoo Racing and Hyundai Motorsport for the manufacturers? crown will also go to the last round. Kalle Rovanperä finished fifth in another Yaris, almost 50sec adrift of Ogier, with Gus Greensmith overcoming several problems to complete the top six in a Ford Fiesta at the final rally for co-driver Chris Patterson.

Oliver Solberg celebrated his first WRC asphalt drive in an i20 World Rally Car with seventh, equaling his career-best result. Top-tier debutant Nil Solans was eighth in another i20, with WRC2 winner Eric Camilli and Nikolay Gryazin completing the leaderboard.

2021 Driver's Championship
1. Sebastien Ogier - 204
2. Elfyn Evans - 187
3. Thierry Neuville - 159
4. Kalle Rovanpera - 140
5. Ott Tanak - 128
6. Craig Breen - 76
7. Takamoto Katsuta - 68
8. Dani Sordo - 63

It's now down to a 2-horse race for the title-deciding final round at FORUM8 ACI Rally Monza, which will take place on 18 - 21 November.

18th October, 2021