Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville has stressed that the team knows it is “not where we want to be” yet, despite giving the new i20 N Rally1 its first podium on last month’s Rally Sweden.
The Monte Carlo Rally was a disaster for Hyundai as its new car was off the pace and dogged by reliability issues. All three cars ran into mechanical gremlins of varying severity throughout the weekend and Neuville gave the team its only stage win on his way to a frustrated sixth place.
But Hyundai was much closer to the front in Sweden. Ott Tänak won the opening stage while Neuville led the rally after the opening day and was only beaten by Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä in the end.
Neuville admitted to DirtFish that “to be in the lead of the rally after the first day was totally unexpected”.
“Despite having had a good pre-event test we couldn’t have imagined we would be able to fight for victory after we saw that [M-Sport] Ford and Toyota have been really strong in Monte Carlo,” he said.
“Already in shakedown, the feeling was good. The times were good as well and we could confirm that on Friday, even if after on Saturday and Sunday things went a bit more complicated for me especially. I was missing a bit the balance and the confidence under braking especially, but at the end, we were able to survive and bring home a good second place for the team.”
However, Neuville isn’t getting carried away and doesn’t believe that a good performance in Sweden suddenly means Hyundai will be competitive everywhere.
On the Monte Carlo Rally, it was on the dry asphalt where the team really struggled for speed, and that’s precisely what the next round of the WRC in Croatia should feature.
When DirtFish put it to him that there’s still an awful lot of work to do to the car, Neuville agreed: “There is, there is, there is, and we are really happy that there are now one and a half months [until Rally Croatia] where we can work flat out on the car to make it better on Tarmac.
“We know we are not there, where we want to be. There will be a bit of driving in between now until the start of the rally so hopefully we are going to get it right and hopefully we are going to be competitive over there.”
Oliver Solberg was equally buoyed by Hyundai’s progress in Sweden. He was among the leading group on the first day before dropping back with tire wear and then losing several minutes with a throttle problem to eventually finish sixth.
“I don’t think we’re there to fight for the win yet but we will keep pushing, don’t worry about that,” he told DirtFish.
“So we have to just work really hard and yeah, Croatia is a Tarmac rally, so I guess we have to work even harder.”