Thierry Neuville believes “it’s always been clear” that his Hyundai team-mate Oliver Solberg should be in a fourth car and under less pressure, not sharing a third i20 N Rally1 with Dani Sordo.
Solberg was signed by Hyundai Motorsport for two years in 2021, competing in WRC2 last season – with three rallies in a 2C Competition WRC car thrown in – before stepping up to the factory outfit in 2022.
But the 21-year-old has been sharing the third car with Sordo, although has taken on the lion’s share of the driving with nine starts (when he starts Rally Japan) to Sordo’s four.
It’s been a difficult learning year for Solberg, who has made some high-profile mistakes – most notably in Finland when he crashed on the first real corner of the rally – which have been under major scrutiny given he’s representing a manufacturer in the World Rally Championship.
Neuville doesn’t think this is a situation Solberg should have been placed in for his first year, pointing to his and team-mate Ott Tänak’s first seasons spent in second-string teams.
“For me, it’s always been clear that Solberg needs a fourth car,” Neuville told DirtFish.
“He needs to run without pressure like I have done, like Ott has done, like [Sébastien] Ogier has done, like Taka [Katsuta] does.
“It’s the only way for young people to get experience and actually drive without pressure, and when you are without pressure performance is coming. If you are with the pressure, you can’t perform as well.
“I personally think already this year we should have put the fourth car in place and hopefully we are going to do it for next year.”
Neuville’s comments come at a time when Solberg’s 2022 form has actually peaked with a fifth place in New Zealand – and the first powerstage points of his career – off the back of his career best fourth in Ypres.
But for the second time in succession, his program will be interrupted to make way for Sordo on Rally Spain.
Asked if somebody like reigning WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen – who drove for Hyundai for the last quarter of 2017 and all of the next two seasons – could be an option to join the team and relieve Solberg of some pressure, Neuville stressed he wasn’t sure who is potentially available but picked out three prime candidates.
“Andreas is an option, Elfyn [Evans] could be an option if he is available, I don’t know. I have no idea, I don’t know the contracts,” he said.
“Kris [Meeke] definitely wants to come back, I’m sure! Hayden [Paddon] could be an option as well. There are not a lot of options, but I guess between Mikkelsen, Sordo and Elfyn, they are the three best.”