Abiteboul critical of Neuville’s ‘rushed’ approach

Thierry Neuville crashed out of second while chasing down the lead, which hasn't impressed his boss

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Hyundai Motorsport team principal Cyril Abiteboul has criticized Thierry Neuville’s ‘rushed’ approach to the second day of Rally Japan.

The Belgian crashed off the road on the second stage of Friday afternoon’s loop while chasing down rival Elfyn Evans.

Neuville, who arrived in Japan on the back of a Central Euopean Rally win last month, slashed the Welshman’s advantage by 15.5 seconds on Friday afternoon’s opener. He then went off the road on the first corner of the next test.

Asked about Neuville accident, Abiteboul told DirtFish: “I was really impressed with his pace on the first stage of the afternoon, but then I think he was too much in a rush to get into the lead.

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“It’s something that should’ve been managed better, it was one of those things where he was a bit too optimistic in his approach. It reminds me a little bit of what happened in Greece, when he was also in the lead.

“It is what it is.”

Abiteboul said there was no expectation from the team that Neuville would catch and pass Evans so quickly.

“In general the instruction for most of this rally was a win or nothing,” he said. “We were driving to win, there was nothing at stake from a championship perspective, so it’s very much for the joy and the satisfaction.

“It was all about trying to win, so it was about risk management – we were not expecting that he could recover that much in the first stage [of the afternoon]. It was about how we could progressively reduce that gap, that was the discussion we had. We didn’t expect him to take 10 seconds (sic), so there was no particular instruction. And anyway Thierry is not the kind of driver who is instructed.”

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Abiteboul said Neuville’s strategy in these kind of situations would be talked about more ahead of next season.

“He knows what he has to do, but there have been a few events where he is a little bit too much in a rush to get in the lead or to get a big lead. We need to see how we can work better on that for next year.

“It’s about his appetite for risk. He’s at the point in his career where maybe sometimes he has an excess of confidence in the car; he’s working hard, he has high expectations and he’s pushing the machinery hard. Maybe a bit too hard.”

Explaining the accident, Neuville told DirtFish: “I had too much energy into the compression. It bottomed and kicked me out of the line and there was no real space for going wide. Immediate stop.”

Neuville’s co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe denied the pair had been pushing too hard on the afternoon’s opening stage.

“The rhythm was not crazy [in SS5],” Wydaeghe told DirtFish. “At the finish, we actually said we didn’t know if this is OK. It’s hard to say if there was a good rhythm or not. With these conditions, it’s difficult.”