Gilsoul’s exit “big shock” for Hyundai on eve of season

The departure of Thierry Neuville's co-driver a week before Monte Carlo was more than surprising

Thierry Neuville

DirtFish understands Nicolas Gilsoul’s decision to not continue co-driving Thierry Neuville after 10 seasons together came as a total surprise to the Belgian and wider Hyundai Motorsport team.

Neuville announced the news on Friday morning, revealing Martijn Wydaeghe as his new co-driver ahead of next week’s Monte Carlo Rally. Beyond confirming the switch, Hyundai has made no further comment on the change.

DirtFish sources have confirmed the decision to stop was Gilsoul’s after he was unable to find contractual agreement with Neuville.

Gilsoul was co-driving Neuville as recently as Tuesday in the pair’s pre-event test for the World Rally Championship season opener.

The source said: “This came as a big shock for the team, they were not expecting this. Nicolas has got on well with everybody there. OK, there were some small things, some small pressures like all crews and teams, but nothing that you would expect for this.

“For Thierry now, he is focusing on his new co-driver, with Martijn – that’s his priority. For sure, it’s going to be a shock for him and I’m sure he’s sad, but he has a job to do next week. He goes to Monte as the defending champion of this rally and he will want to make the best case for repeating that result.”

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Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Gilsoul, whose partnership with Neuville started in 2011, was unavailable for comment when DirtFish contacted him, but he communicated his feelings via a statement on his own website.

“As you may guess, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the news came out this morning: Thierry and I won’t be teammates this season,” he wrote.

“Where do I start? We shared unique moments, like our first win in Germany, our victories in Sardinia, Sweden, Argentine, Monte Carlo… immense joys, disappointments, full attack ‘on the limit’ sections, jumps, offs, in one word: emotions that only WRC can bring. This is what I will remember from these years together.

“In a relationship, the ending is sometimes a bit abrupt. But I can measure everyday how lucky I am to live from my passion and I only want to wish Thierry and Martijn the very best for the coming season. I also want to thank the whole Hyundai team, I wish you all many more World Champion titles!

“Thanks you for all your nice messages, and this is just an au-revoir. I don’t plan to sit behind my desk very long. My favorite seat is the right one, in a rally car.”