Thierry Neuville acknowledged his World Rally Championship (WRC) dream is hanging by the thinnest of threads after retiring in Spain the other Sunday.
The Belgian was joint championship leader with Sébastien Ogier just two rallies ago, but his retirement from the following round in Germany after losing a wheel enabled the defending champ to pull clear.
Neuville hoped to reignite his challenge at Rally RACC Catalunya-Rally de España, but his charge was hampered by a hydraulic issue the other Saturday and extinguished altogether when he hit a stone, breaking his Hyundai i20’s suspension.
After a no-score in Spain, Neuville slipped to third in the standings, 37 points behind Ogier and one behind Ott Tänak.
With a maximum 60 points available from the rounds in Britain and Australia, Neuville still has a mathematical chance of taking the crown, but shortly after his Spanish retirement he seemed to accept defeat.
Asked by WRC Live if his championship was over, Neuville said: “Yeah, okay, that’s part of the game. We tried everything to fight back. We had unlucky weekend, with some problems on [the other]Saturday. Now it’s finished for us. But that’s part of rallying.
“We have seen many ups and downs in the previous years, but it’s like always, we win together and we lose together. We have to look beyond this, continue fighting, look towards the end of the year and finish with some nice results,” he added.
Despite admitting to feeling hugely disappointed, Neuville insisted there were positives to take away.
“I know we have tried everything, my team has given me a perfect car to fight hard with the other guys and I did my best,” he said. “Obviously this wasn’t our weekend. After our problems on Saturday we had no choice than to push hard and that is what we did – there are no regrets,” he said.
“The team was very unlucky this year. We had a lot of small problems, some mistakes which cost us strong results, but that’s part of the game and it will make us and our team stronger.”