Thierry Neuville has blamed his late Rally de Espana retirement on “bad luck”, while conceding his championship challenge is effectively over due to his second consecutive rally without a point.
The Hyundai team-leader had recovered to hold a joint lead in the championship mid-season following two crashes from the lead of Rally Monte Carlo and Rally Sweden, but is on the verge of losing the championship battle to rival Sebastien Ogier after another no-score.
Neuville entered the final day of the event in fifth place, but broke his suspension after hitting a rock. As the rally had no midday service during the final leg, the Belgian was forced to retire shortly thereafter.
“We are obviously hugely disappointed, but at the same time this sort of bad luck is part of the game in the World Rally Championship,” he said.
“After our problems on Saturday, we were pushing hard [Sunday] morning to make up time. Unfortunately, I turned a bit too tightly in a slow corner in SS16 and hit something that damaged the wheel, and caused the front suspension to break.
“That was it, game over.”
The gap to Ogier increased to 38 points thanks to a second place finish for the four time world champion, and Neuville has turned his attention to simply scoring good results in the final two events of the season, rather than focus on the title.
“Of course, this result makes things much more difficult in the Drivers’ Championship, but we have to keep both feet on the ground.
“This just hasn’t been our weekend. Now we want to finish the season with some good results in GB and Australia.”
Neuville has yet to win either event, having scored two third places in previous seasons in Wales, while his best result down under was a runner’s up spot while driving a Ford in 2013.