Thierry Neuville says he knew before the Monte Carlo Rally that it would be a “tough one” for Hyundai, feeling that the event came “a little early” for the team to be competitive.
World Rally Championship regulations have been reset for 2022 as the World Rally Car ruleset has been replaced by Rally1, which features a 100kW hybrid unit but less aerodynamic sophistication than its predecessor.
Hyundai had a more troubled preparation for last weekend’s season opener than M-Sport Ford and Toyota as it began testing late, and faced setbacks including a terrifying crash for Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe and the exit of team principal Andrea Adamo.
Ahead of the event, team personnel were keen to point out that Hyundai was not in trouble and Neuville claimed the “situation is under control”.
But Neuville was the only Hyundai driver to finish – placing sixth despite a costly damper issue – and said after the rally he felt “frustration and disappointment”, citing his performance on the powerstage where he “drove for my life” but was only third fastest.
“I gave it everything, and I really was disappointed when I saw the time on the board because I knew that I had taken every risk I could on the stage just to be able to take the five points for the powerstage win, but unfortunately we saw that it was maybe not a very realistic target,” he told DirtFish.
“Usually with a drive like that it should have been clearly the fastest time.”
Non-finishes for Ott Tänak, who crashed into a bank, and Oliver Solberg – who pulled out due to concerns over his and co-driver Elliott Edmondson’s health as exhaust fumes infiltrated the car – mean that Hyundai is already 29 points behind M-Sport, with Toyota 26 points ahead in second.
Neuville admitted “it’s clearly not where we wanted to be” after “everybody worked hard the last few months” to be ready for the season, but also reckoned the Monte was “probably a little early for us” to be fully ready.
“We are trying to motivate everybody as much as we can and continue pushing,” he said.
“I clearly see that the willing is there, so that’s important, but we need a change. We can’t carry on with where we have left off last year, so we need to react quickly and we need to be much stronger for the upcoming events.
“It’s up to the team to react as fast as possible.
“Clearly we have to be on the point in Sweden already. We can’t afford another weekend like this if we want to fight for the championship and that’s clearly my goal and that’s why Hyundai has engaged me as well to work for the team, but I need the tools to do it.”
Asked what the most important thing to sort before Sweden was, Neuville replied: “There are many things to be solved, to be honest.
“We won’t go into details now, but I think it’s very clear to see that things are not going like they should.”