Neuville keeps outside title hopes alive in Catalonia

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Madrid (AFP)

Belgium's Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai opened up a 21.5-second lead at the Rally of Catalonia on Saturday to keep his outside championship hopes alive but Estonia's Ott Tanak remained on course to clinch a first world title.

Tanak, in a Toyota, only needs to finish just two points ahead of Sebastien Ogier, who is chasing his seventh consecutive championship triumph, to claim victory in the 13th and penultimate round of the season, which ends in Australia next month.

Neuville, who is 41 points behind in the standings and needs to win Barcelona to keep his slender hopes alive, came in ahead of Spaniard Dani Sordo in another Hyundai, with Tanak 24.6sec back in third.

Ogier sits in eighth place, 4min 9sec off the pace but will be hoping for a resurgence in the last day on Sunday, which will include a Power Stage that awards bonus points in the standings.

Another Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, behind the wheel of a Hyundai and who had held the lead on Friday, dropped back to fourth, 25.2sec adrift of Neuville.

Sunday's finale begins with Riudecanyes (16.35km) and the tricky La Mussara stage (20.72km), which returns to the event for the first time since 2014.