Thierry Neuville will restart on the final day of the Croatia Rally after he crashed out of the lead on Saturday's third stage.
Factory Hyundai driver Neuville began leg two leading by 5.7s and widened that gap to 10.5s after the opening run when rival Elfyn Evans reported being “just a little bit too careful on the gravel cuts”.
The gap increased by a further 0.3s after SS10 only for Neuville to crash out on a third-gear right-hander, 5.2km from the start of the 10.13km Ravna Gora – Skrad test.
He told the WRC All Live service what had gone wrong: “I was maybe a bit late on the braking and I entered the cut and when I entered the cut I just lost the rear. We hit some concrete on the outside and the rally was over.”
He continued: “I didn't feel very well in the car because it's a new stage, new pace notes, tricky conditions, I actually was not that fast and on the split times we'd lost already 1.5s after only three kilometes.”
“I [was] just a bit late on the brakes, [there was] a bit more dirt than expected, the cut was a bit more slippery, basically we lock up both wheels and the car spun around and we hit the concrete.”
Neuville, who finished on the podium in Croatia in both 2021 and 2022, continued: “The thing we mentioned all day yesterday is that I wasn't feeling 100 percent confident in the car.”
“But the knowledge of the roads definitely made the difference and I was able to compensate by knowing exactly what was coming and knowing exactly what the conditions would be like to compensate the behaviour of the car.”
“It's true as soon as we went into the new stage, new pace notes it was much harder for me and again I had similar feelings as Friday morning where I was struggling a bit.
“When you are fighting for victory, small mistakes sometimes can have huge consequences and we need to live with that.”
The Croatia Rally started a week to the day that Neuville's Hyundai team-mate Craig Breen was killed in a crash testing for the all-Tarmac World Rally Championship event.
“I just want to address my excuse to the team. We all were dreaming about the victory here this weekend; you know for what reason,” said Neuville.
“We were close but to be honest it hasn't been easy in the car all weekend and we were fighting hard to keep believing and keep dreaming.”
Of his plans to restart on Sunday, when Power Stage points will be a clear target, Neuville added: “Basically we just broke the left-rear damper and upright and the car will be fixed very quickly. We will be there for the Power Stage tomorrow.”