Thierry Neuville reckons the points collected come the end of this weekend's Secto Rally Finland could yet be crucial in deciding the outcome of this season's World Rally Championship title race.
Neuville ended the penultimate leg of the gravel fixture a distant second to the GR Yaris Rally1 driven by runaway leader and former winner, Elfyn Evans.
The duo started Saturday separated by less than seven seconds but it didn't take Evans long to stamp his authority on proceedings as he ended the day 32.1s – a margin helped by seven consecutive fastest stage times.
Long before Saturday's last speed test, Neuville conceded he was not going to be able to equal – or better – Evans on performance alone because his i20 N Rally1 car doesn't “have the power to fight for the victory”.
A lack of all-round traction on the wet Finnish forest tracks was also presenting a problem for the 35-year-old in sections which meant he could not carry the speed in places he would have liked to.
Instead, his focus for Sunday will be to safeguard second position in case anything should happen to Evans and aim to score as many points as he possibly can on the Power Stage.
“It wasn't the day we were hoping for, but still it was a good one,” was the Belgian's assessment. “We had some speed this morning but it was trickier this afternoon. Challenging weather conditions made it difficult for us to keep the car on the road.
“We tried to push hard but in the end we had to settle provisionally for second behind a very quick Elfyn. We are satisfied though; we were not expecting to be in this position in Finland.
“We have done a good job and the car was working fine. The Championship hasn't been easy up until now but our hope isn't lost, so let's see how many points we can maximise from this event,” he added.
Despite Neuville sounding generally positive about the weekend so far, Team Principal Cyril Abieboul hinted that he expected to be closer to Toyota on the second full day of competition than what they were.
“It has not been exactly the day we were hoping for but it is good that we are still in the mix,” said Abiteboul. “The target was to try and make up a position for both Thierry and [team-mate] Teemu [Suninen].
“It was fairly clear from the start of the day that Elfyn was very quick, so after having a go Thierry took a more conservative approach, with the Championship in mind.”