There was one man the Belgian fans wanted to see win on Ypres Rally. Not even wanted, they expected it.
That man was their home favorite Thierry Neuville.
Fans had made the pilgrimage to the Ypres stages in their droves, all ready to see Neuville clinch another win.
After last year’s victory, there was a feeling he could repeat the feat again, and spectator numbers were up as a result.
There was a feeling of excitement buzzing around the stages in the hope of seeing their man take the glory.
And it was all looking so good for Neuville until midway through SS15.
Neuville went onto the stage holding a 17.2 second lead over team-mate Ott Tänak, but any hopes of a second consecutive victory on the rally were instantly dashed when he went off into a ditch, causing him to retire.
Naturally, Neuville was left feeling frustrated by the crash which ultimately prevented him from celebrating his first win of the year amongst his home crowd.
“Yeah. It was all in our hands but unfortunately we couldn’t get the result that we should have taken from the weekend,” he explained.
“Huge disappointment for us, for the team, but also for an incredible amount of spectators, fans and supporters who were along the stages this weekend.”
There hasn’t been much to cheer about in Neuville’s camp in 2022, especially with Tänak going on to win the rally in the same machinery.
And what will bruise his confidence more is his inability to capitalize on Kalle Rovanperä’s retirement, which was a prime opportunity to close the gap in the championship.
There may have been some comfort in the effort his fans went to in order to try and get Neuville back on the road, as spectators gathered around the car to push it back out of the ditch.
But it was all in vein as the Hyundai driver was forced to pull over shortly after, bringing his rally to an end.
There was so much hope that was cruelly ended in the harshest of ways, but rather than feeling sorry from himself, he apologized to his fans for not meeting their expectations.
“Sorry that we couldn’t deliver the result we were all expecting,” he said.
“We said it already many times; we got surprised yesterday, caught out, on a very slow corner, and the rally came to an end.”