Sebastien Ogier says World Rally Championship title rival Thierry Neuville’s retirement from Rally de Espana has “changed the picture completely” as he closes in on a fifth consecutive crown.

The M-Sport Ford driver held off team-mate Ott Tanak for second place in Spain behind Citroen's Kris Meeke and coupled with Neuville’s retirement at the end of SS16 for Hyundai he has extended his lead to 37 points with Tanak now in second place in the drivers’ championship.

With a maximum of 60 points available to score from the final two rounds, Ogier feels a huge step towards the 2017 crown has been made for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ front due to Neuville’s point-less outing. The Belgium driver was forced out of the Spanish event after breaking his front suspension three stages from the finish while running in fifth place.

“We’ve taken a really positive step towards the championship this weekend,” Ogier said. “I think we were on course to extend the lead anyway, but with Thierry’s mistake that changed the picture completely and we’ve been able to extend the gap even more.

“We were never really in a position where we had to take all the risks, but we still had to keep a good rhythm. There was no chance to fight with Kris [Meeke] as he was just on another level on the Tarmac, but we had a clean drive and it’s definitely been a positive weekend.

“It’s been good news for the team too as the manufacturers’ championship is now pretty much done and we can start to plan a bit of a party for their home event in a couple of weeks’ time.”


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