For any rallying enthusiast, the ultimate dream is to have your very own collection of rally cars.
An eclectic selection from the World Rally Championship’s rich history that signifies your love and passion for the sport, and gives you some fun toys to play with on the weekends.
What a life that would be.
For Thierry Neuville however, that dream is already a reality, and taking his favorite toys for a spin is exactly what the Belgian gets up to when he gets a spare moment from his extremely busy day job.
Hyundai’s WRC star has assembled an impressive collection which represent different eras of the sport’s history. There are some that have a special personal meaning, including Neuville’s very first rally car, an Opel Corsa GSi, and the M-Sport Fiesta WRC which he drove to a breakthrough second place in the 2013 world championship.
But there’s also some gems from the rallying’s past that, quite simply, the Belgian just likes.
And at Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo’s ‘Race of Champions’ at the Sordo-family owned Circuito LaRoca last weekend, DirtFish got a closer look at two of them.
First up is Neuville’s BMW M3 E30. The Group A hero of the late 80s and early 90s has such a distinctive look, and an even more distinct sound when its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine sings. For the Belgian, it was love at first drive.
“I drove one last year on a rally in Belgium, the Spa Rally,” he explained to DirtFish. “I enjoyed it a lot, and that’s why I said ‘Yeah, I need to get one!’
“I got it to take it on occasions like this [exhibition events] basically. When I’m not driving in the Hyundai, and I’m allowed to drive another car! It’s perfect.”
Neuville may have fallen for the M3 that he took to sixth place overall on the Spa Rally, but that isn’t the car he’s showing off today. This M3 is a totally new build. So new in fact, that the 19-time World Rally winner only got his very first drive of it around the Sordo family’s beautiful test track.
“It arrived on Monday in Belgium,” said Neuville, “and then it came straight here on Tuesday.”
And despite a couple of spins in Saturday’s wet open practise, Neuville was happy with how his new purchase was performing, declaring “So far, so good. Everything is new so no major problems at the moment.”
While the BMW may have stolen his heart only recently, Neuville’s other pristine specimen represents a love affair that goes back far longer. It’s a car that’s driven by the wheels at the opposite end of the chassis to the M3, and that was frequently seen bothering the WRC elite on asphalt as Neuville was watching on as a boy in the late 90s.
The legendary Peugeot 306 Maxi F2 Kit Car.
“It’s an amazing car, and it’s fun to drive as well,” smiled Neuville. “I [always] wanted to have one because everyone was always dreaming about the kit car.
“I bought it a bit as an ‘investment’ last year, as I knew that I would not lose any money! Other than what it cost me to drive it. I never drove it in the past, so it was a good opportunity for me to get a good car, with a good specification. And just to have it and drive it a bit.”
After getting in plenty of miles in the front-wheel drive Peugeot over the weekend at LaRoca, Neuville described what it’s like to drive a car that, despite its age, is still surprisingly advanced.
“It’s completely different to the BMW. You can feel the difference in terms of years.
“It’s a bit younger. It’s got quite a lot of power. The gearbox is just amazing, but also the braking is very efficient. It’s a really efficient car.
We are planning to make some designs for a few outings that I’m gonna do sometimeThierry Neuville
“But it’s a front-wheel drive car, so on slippy tracks like this, it’s hard to get the power on the ground. But yeah, the difference between now and at that time is still obviously huge.”
While watching both cars being put through their paces by a current WRC star was certainly a sight to behold, there remained the question of why Neuville had chosen to bring both machines to northern Spain in all-white liveries. They looked, frankly, naked.
“Yeah, basically they’re both white because the BMW arrived late, and was only finished last weekend. So there was no time,” Neuville explained. “And the Peugeot, I drove at a rally last year (Eifel Rallye Festival) in the same colors that I drove for Peugeot Belgium in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
“But then we made a rebuild so we had to repaint some stuff, took off the stickers. So yeah, there was no time for here.”
So, as someone with a clear appetite for reliving the history of the sport, does the Hyundai driver have plans for some retro-inspired paint jobs in the future?
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “I think we are planning to make some designs for a few outings that I’m gonna do sometime.
“When I’ve got the chance…”