Hyundai unlikely to ask Suninen to yield second to Neuville

Thierry Neuville has often benefited from team orders this season, but that's not looking likely in Chile


Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul has told DirtFish he is unlikely to ask Teemu Suninen to give up his second position on Rally Chile to Thierry Neuville.

Throughout the World Rally Championship season, Hyundai has set out a clear strategy of doing whatever it can to help Neuville finally win the drivers’ championship.

That has meant asking its other drivers – like Craig Breen in Sweden and Esapekka Lappi in Sardinia – to either yield a position or back off in order to boost Neuville’s points haul.

After Saturday’s leg in Chile, Neuville is third overall – 13.9 seconds behind his part-time team-mate Suninen.


The Belgian still has a mathematical shot at the championship, but started round 11 of 13 66 points adrift of reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä with just 90 left to play for.

As it stands (and excluding the variable of the powerstage), Neuville is set to outscore the Toyota driver by five points, which could see him fall out of championship contention.

But finishing second could be enough to keep Neuville narrowly in play.

However with his prospects diminishing, Abiteboul doesn’t see the need to deny Suninen a result that would equal his career-best finish.

Abiteboul hadn’t spoken to either driver before talking to DirtFish, but said: “Right now, as I stand, I don’t see the necessity of that [imposing a team order] and frankly I think it would be fair to give to Teemu what he deserves.

“But you know it’s one thing to say let’s see tomorrow, let’s see after a good night of sleep.”

Suninen told DirtFish “for me it would be OK” to play the team game for Neuville, but countered that by adding: “But on the other hand, I don’t know what it will change. Let’s see if I can drive against Thierry under pressure.”

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Suninen therefore believes it would be good for him, and Hyundai, to see if he can beat Neuville in a straight fight.

Abiteboul agreed, but knows that would come with its risks.

“We want to have two cars on the podium so we don’t want them to sort of push each other out of the final classification,” he said.

“But you’re right I think it’s a fair battle. Having said that, Thierry’s suffered some issues today with the hybrid that Teemu didn’t have on his side, so there is always a way to tell the story differently.

“Again, what’s important is the team result and we would like to have two cars, four crew members on the podium tomorrow.”

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Neuville’s target is to secure second place, whether it’s assisted or not.

“He’s 13s [ahead] so we have to go and catch it,” Neuville told DirtFish. “I’m looking more forwards than backwards.

” I don’t know how our chances are to win the championship. I didn’t watch now how many points Kalle would get from the event as well, we have to see how much tires they have left also for tomorrow and what could be the final outcome,” he added, “but I will do my job and I will try and catch P2.”