Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe were seen pushing their i20 with flames bellowing from the rear after it failed to start prior to Sunday’s final stage.
Luckily the rally leaders, who had built up a comfortable lead of more than 20 seconds, were able to push the car to the regroup section where marshals could assist them in firing up the car.
As a result, Neuville successfully completed the final stage, held in greasy damp conditions, to seal a dominant second World Rally Championship win of the season and bag four bonus Power Stage points.
Having led the rally since Friday afternoon, Neuville admitted the late scare was a “heart attack” moment, caused by a recurring starter motor issue, but praised the help received from marshals.
“Literally the car was on fire, we were making some flames, but it is a problem we have faced several times this season unfortunately and it looks like it is not solved yet,” said Neuville.
“Sometimes the car just refuses to start and with a bit of luck the car will start at some point or not.
“The only way is to push the car luckily this time we were not far from the regroup and Martijn and myself were able to push the car into regroup, and in there we are allowed to get help from the marshals.
“Luckily again, there were enough marshals to give us the support and the car started immediately and that is why we were able to continue.
“Of course we are smiling, especially now after the little heart attack we had before the stage.
“I was pretty sure we would be able to get the car starting again but still there is a lot of stress, and the rain coming at the final stage. There was lots of stress but we kept cool and did the job.”
Neuville had started the rally on Friday struggling with serious understeer issues that at times required the Belgian to use the handbrake to get the car to turn on Spain’s tarmac roads.
However, a decision to move to “radical” set-up suggestion by his engineer was the key in transforming his i20 into a car that rattled off eight consecutive stage wins from Friday afternoon through to Saturday to set up the win.
“The difference was basically a set up change on Friday midday,” Neuville added.
“My engineer pushed me into a bit more of a radical change and I have to say it was a good decision and immediately the car felt better. It decreased the understeer which was quite dominant in the morning loop.
“After that I felt quite comfortable and had a good clean run, no mistakes as well and that brought us the victory in the end.
“The result itself probably doesn’t show how much we’ve had to work. We had a good clean run until the final stage; everything was working perfectly up to that point.”Internet Explorer Channel Network