Neuville successfully guided his Hyundai i20N through Sunday morning’s three asphalt stages as the Belgian increased his lead over Rovanpera to 43.9s.
Rovanpera was afforded the luxury of only needing to realistically navigate today’s four stages to wrap up a second world title, which meant he could engage cruise mode.
M-Sport’s Ott Tanak maintained third (+1m48.9s) ahead of Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier (2m07.2s), Takamoto Katsuta (+2m45.6s), Hyundai’s Teemu Suninen (+3m01.0s) and M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster (+4m14.6). Pierre-Louis Loubet held onto eighth (+10m47.9s) despite suffering a transmission issue.
The final day of the rally began under clear skies which meant crews faced much grippier dry asphalt, without any slippery mud on line.
Ogier kicked off the morning by winning Stage 15 (Bohmerwald 1 17.25km) by a margin of 1.8s from team-mate Elfyn Evans, who rejoined the rally after crashing out on stage 11 on Saturday.
“It’s pretty dry and clean in there overall, some slippy sections under the trees where it’s damp,” said Evans.
Rally leader Neuville was third-fastest but he also didn’t need to push with nearest rival Rovanpera backing off.
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
“We are just enjoying, and now the weather is a bit better it’s a bit nicer you can enjoy the driving a bit. Nothing crazy, just try and enjoy the day,” said Rovanpera, who was 7.4s adrift of the pace.
Making use of being first on the road, Evans set the fastest time on Stage 16 (Passauer Land 1 16.37km) the first pass of the rally-ending Power Stage.
The Welshman was 4.6s faster than Ogier with Katsuta third-fastest as he pushed the gap to Suninen in sixth overall out to 9.8s.
Tanak came through in fourth despite his gear knob coming loose on his Ford Puma.
“We tried, we tried for sure. Lost the gear knob in the stage so it was a bit challenging, but all good. I try to keep it on because I need it,” said Tanak.
Tanak’s team-mate Loubet also hit trouble after picking up a transmission issue that cost him 39.3s.
“We broke the transmission after the second corner. It was stupid to try to continue to attack, I think we broke the front-left driveshaft,” said Loubet.
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1
Neuville and Rovanpera completed the stage without issue, posting times good enough for sixth and eighth respectively.
Ogier took the spoils in Stage 17 (Böhmerwald 2 17.25km) with a margin of 3.3s over Katsuta with Neuville, 0.3s adrift in third.
In WRC2, Emil Lindholm retired from the class lead due to an alternator issue on a road section handing the advantage to Skoda driver Nicolas Ciamin. The rally will conclude after this afternoon’s Power Stage.