Thierry Neuville is aiming to “control” his home round of the World Rally Championship, Ypres Rally Belgium, once again this week following a comfortable win in 2021.
Neuville and Craig Breen were the only two top-class drivers to have tangible experience of the Ypres stages last year and it showed as the pair duly finished first and second overall.
This year, the rest all now have a first-hand idea of what to expect, but Neuville is still the favorite given his affinity with his local stages.
But the Hyundai driver isn’t promising to push to the same limits that Ott Tänak did to win the recent Rally Finland.
“I don’t hope so,” Neuville told DirtFish when asked if he would be taking a Tänak-style approach of pushing beyond what felt comfortable.
“I mean, yeah, it would be nice to have a comfortable drive and good speed like we had last year and control the race, but we will see.”
A victory would be a timely boost for Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe who haven’t won a WRC event since Rally Spain last October.
For much of the season, Neuville’s been second in the standings to runaway championship leader Kalle Rovanperä. But he was overhauled by team-mate Tänak after Tänak won in Finland and Neuville was only fifth.
And while Tänak also won in Italy and was third at home in Estonia, Neuville has yet to reach the rostrum since round three in April – Rally Croatia.
But Neuville has made no secret of the fact that the nature of the Estonia and Finland stages don’t suit him, and believes this part of the season is “tough” for him.
Asked why Tänak was able to get so much more out of the i20 N Rally1 in Finland than he was, Neuville said: “I mean obviously he had a very good opening day and then he tried to attack as hard as he could as he felt there was a chance.
“Obviously, cleaning the road, the road positions were completely different on the other days, so that makes all the small differences and it’s no secret that he has always felt very comfortable.
“Estonia was his home event; Finland is exactly the same type of roads and profile and driving style. So it has been a rally where I always have struggled a bit and having two races like this in the calendar in a row it’s always a tough period for us in the championship.”
And what about the car? Can it genuinely be said that Hyundai has turned a corner given its unexpected win in Finland?
“No,” said Neuville.
“I mean, like I said in Estonia, we didn’t take out the maximum of the car, and still this weekend [in Finland] I think the Toyota had slightly more performance but Ott was compensating with a bit more risky driving.
“It went good this time, so that’s good for the team, but it can go wrong as well.
“We definitely have work left, and we’re going to work. But now it’s focus on Ypres and we look forward to the upcoming event.”