Catalunya WRC: Meeke extends lead, Neuville retires

Catalunya WRC: Meeke extends lead, Neuville retires”

"It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how you get back up again", said Meeke at the finish.

His regular exits led to him being dropped for Rally Poland during the summer but the Northern Irishman will hope his fifth WRC victory will help secure his Citroen drive for 2018.

He extended his lead from 13s overnight to 23.9s by the end of the loop.

"And I've had to get up a few times in my career".

Kris Meeke has taken his second World Rally Championship victory of 2017 at Rally RACC Catalunya while the title race took a pivotal twist as Thierry Neuville was forced to retire with damage as points leader Sebastien Ogier kept clear in second place.

Hyundai duo Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen bounced back from separate suspension breaks on Saturday with the Spanish driver delighting his home fans by winning the Power Stage and finishing 15 overall with his Norwegian team-mate ending the rally 18. A dominant victory in Spain, eventually taken by 28 seconds ahead of Ogier, marks Meeke's just third points finish in 2017 in 10 events to turnaround around a hard year for the French manufacturer.

Undoubtedly the fastest man of the morning with two stage wins out of three was a resurgent Juho Hanninen, the Finn leading Toyotas charge and working his way up to sixth at the end of Saturday morning's action.

After the Mexico win, crashes in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Argentina, Italy and Germany along with an engine failure while leading in Corsica, marred his campaign.

He overhauled Mads Ostberg who had a small off on the first stage of the morning, adapting to his first event on asphalt in the new 2017-spec cars, his Ford Fiesta unaffected by the incident.

He headed Meeke's team-mate Stephane Lefebvre who had to nurse a hydraulic issue through Sunday.

Elfyn Evans struggled with the turn in after some radical setup changes aboard his DMACK Ford Fiesta, and he's the last 2017 WRC auto in the top 10 in a net seventh. His DMACK tyres weren't suited to the gravel or asphalt stages and he suffered in bucket loads, eventually finishing nearly five minutes off the lead. Second placed Jan Kopecky was left reeling after losing by 31.8s although he lost over a minute on the first day, caught in a drivers dust in his Skoda Fabia R5.

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