Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul regrets not being more aggressive with the i20 N Rally1’s setup sooner on last weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally.
The Monte was dominated by Toyota as it soared to 16 of the 18 stage wins and scored a 1-2 finish courtesy of its two world champions Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä.
Thierry Neuville did grab a podium for Hyundai but was outpaced by Elfyn Evans throughout the weekend, and likely would have been beaten by him had Evans not punctured on Friday.
After Saturday’s leg Neuville insisted to DirtFish that the “car is not the problem, it’s the setup we have” and Abiteboul – who appeared in the World Rally Championship service park for the first time in Monaco – backed that up after the event.
“Third place is not a bad start, but we should not lose sight of the fact we have a bigger vision, fighting for wins and championship titles, so we must not get complacent,” Abiteboul said.
“There has been lots to digest for myself and for the team; we have had strong drivers, encouraging moments, long days, and lots of work. A podium is nice but we’re still 45 seconds from the win.
“Ogier has been the benchmark all weekend and that should act as inspiration for us all to get stronger. We need to understand what we’re missing and come back with a response. Ultimately, we need more pace.
“We have tried to be more aggressive with the car setup and in hindsight we should have done this earlier in the weekend, which might have given a better dynamic and more confidence to the crews.”
Neuville admitted he felt “powerless” at times to compete with the Toyotas and that his pair of stage wins were a result of tire strategies playing out rather than any improved pace from Hyundai.
“Generally I think we must be satisfied with the [podium], with the end result, just because we have seen very early in the race that it seems like we couldn’t really follow the pace of the other guys,” he said.
“And despite trying, we were never really able to set any good times. Just always a couple of seconds behind, constantly losing time. Even on Friday morning we knew that, yeah, different tire strategy was making or going to make us this time.
“We hoped for better return on Saturday afternoon, but we started then to set fastest times due to better tires. But it didn’t last very long to be honest, and today [on Sunday] we are all on similar conditions and, yeah, I felt a bit powerless sometimes.
“But at the end, it seems a bit our own fault, as a team together we probably didn’t expect the conditions [to be] so dry and prepared more for Monte Carlo like usually where you go for bits of the car and softer settings, and at the end it didn’t work out.”
Neuville spin, video from Luca Dipietromaria FB #WRC #WRCLive #RallyeMonteCarlo pic.twitter.com/5GC9QeexaT
— Jakub Horešovský (@JakubHoreovsk) January 22, 2023
Neuville fiddled with his setup throughout the event, and believes a change on Sunday is what was responsible for his spin (see above)on the first stage of the day where he was lucky not to hit the barriers.
“It was the first braking after start-line and I had done some setup changes overnight, just to try to see if we could gain any performance,” Neuville explained.
“And it was like a close-to-flat corner just before the braking, and I was already understeering like hell. So I was getting a bit excited and angry on saying ‘oh it will be like this all stage-long, I will be in the s***’.
“And I completely forgot my braking for the hairpin and I was just not concentrated enough, but luckily we got away with it.
“And yeah, from thereon I killed my tires from the first stage and I had to manage all day long.”
Hyundai’s other drivers both struggled – Dani Sordo placing seventh one spot ahead of new recruit Esapekka Lappi in eighth.
It heads into round two of the season already 24 points behind Toyota in the manufacturers’ championship.