Thierry Neuville’s former co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul will make his return to rallying on next weekend’s Rally Sanremo after he and Neuville suddenly split on the eve of the Monte Carlo Rally in January.
The two Belgians – who first collaborated in 2011 in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with Peugeot – failed to agree terms for the 2021 World Rally Championship season, leaving Neuville without a co-driver just days before the season opener.
Ultimately Neuville and Hyundai employed Martijn Wydaeghe who, despite some intercom and pronunciation issues, has performed handsomely alongside Neuville as the pair sit second in the championship after Monte Carlo and Arctic Rally Finland.
The separation left Gilsoul without a full-time drive for the first time in over a decade, but he will make his return on Rally Sanremo in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 alongside Antoine-Paul Santoni.
Ironically, Gilsoul and Neuville won Rally Sanremo together in 2011 in a 207 S2000, and Neuville and Wydaeghe will also be in action in their i20 Coupe WRC alongside team-mates Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja.
“I am pleased to announce my participation on [Rally Sanremo from] April 10-11 alongside the talented Corsican rider [Santoni] in charge of a VW Polo GTI R5,” Gilsoul wrote on social media.
“This will be an opportunity for me to dive back in the bath after the unwarranted break-up of the collaboration with Thierry Neuville.
“I’ve been using the past few weeks to reflect positively on my future in motorsport and maintain my condition so that I can take any opportunity, comforted by the countless amount of support and encouragement directed at me.
“That’s why I’ve taken the departure of this test with enthusiasm and determination. As always.”
Santoni and Gilsoul will be up against an incredibly competitive field, with 47 Rally2 cars starting the former WRC event.
Among those are Hyundai works drivers Craig Breen and Oliver Solberg, while there’s also a competition return for Toksport WRC2 driver Marco Bulacia.
Sanremo is the Bolivian’s first rally start since January after he was forced to miss Arctic Rally Finland due to a visa problem.
Former Citroën WRC driver Stéphane Lefebvre will also compete in a C3 Rally2 as well as the Italian championship regulars Stefano Albertini, Giandomenico Basso, Andrea Crugnola and Fabio Andolfi among others.