A series of pointed comments in stage-end interviews between Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak have been cleared up as a misunderstanding, according to Neuville.
On the Saturday morning of Ypres Rally Belgium, eventual rally winner Tänak complained that a “transmission issue” was holding him back slightly – though Neuville jokingly dismissed his team-mate’s complaints.
“I think if Ott has problems then I have only three cylinders,” quipped Neuville after learning of Tänak’s complaints.
That led to an immediate response from Tänak, saying: “I don’t know what he was doing or what were his intentions.
“I just couldn’t understand, it is what it is. I don’t really care to be honest.”
That he didn’t care appeared a little wide of the mark as, after Neuville’s rally-ending crash, Tänak went on to claim the high ground.
“Like he said before that probably I don’t have an issue, I don’t know,” Tänak commented at the end of Saturday’s final stage.
“It’s a shame what happened [to Neuville] for sure but I think inside the team we shouldn’t fight with each other. We should fight for others.
“I don’t know what he was thinking.”
He would eventually find out what he was thinking, as Neuville revealed the pair spoke to clear the air and move on from the public quarrel.
“We had had a discussion with Ott. I think he clearly misunderstood what I was saying,” Neuville told DirtFish.
“We got the comment at the end of the stage that Ott was having trouble and I saw his time; he was like three seconds slower, if I remember well.
“I just mentioned that if he was having trouble then I was on three cylinders. So it’s a funny game.
“But I didn’t comment anything more about his problems, I didn’t know what was going on.”
Tänak confirmed the pair had spoken, but added “it was probably some kind of game” from his team-mate.
“It was what it was, you know. Everybody as you know is under a lot of pressure and Thierry had the most, fighting in front of his home crowd, trying to bring the win home. It is important and I have no problem with that.”
Tänak’s win coupled with Neuville’s retirement has moved the 2019 world champion 25 points clear of his team-mate in the championship standings.
The pair have been team-mates since 2020, but were title rivals – along with Sébastien Ogier – in 2018 and ’19 when Tänak won.