Neuville frustrated by Portuguese part-timers

The championship leader will run first on the road in Portugal, sweeping the line for his irregular rivals


Thierry Neuville’s not really looking forward to this week’s Rally of Portugal. But he might be. Just depends on the weather. The World Rally Championship leader is readying himself for a sip from the sport’s poisoned chalice.

Four rounds in, the Hyundai star is happy with his six-point lead over Toyota rival Elfyn Evans. He’s less happy Evans’ part-time team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä are coming to the Portuguese party. The other GR Yaris Rally1s will run in more preferable positions of fifth and seventh on the road respectively. What’s even worse for the Belgian? Takamoto Katsuta is running sixth in another Toyota. And the early forecast is for sunshine on Friday.

The sensible thinking for Portugal is that five, six and seven are about the perfect places to be on a dry day on the loose gravel stages around Matosinhos; the road’s been nicely swept, but the worst of the rocks probably haven’t been pulled out yet.

Neuville should, of course, remember that his team-mate Dani Sordo is also in a nice place, with the Spaniard making his first start of the season and running last of the Rally1 cars on Friday.

Asked for his thoughts ahead of round five this week, Neuville told DirtFish: “Not so confident. I mean, being first on the road, having all those people who do only half or part-time championships starting on the best road position… it’s frustrating for us. We know it’s going to be tough out there.


Neuville has already suffered from roadsweeping duties this year in Sweden

“We don’t expect a lot, other than a good road position for Sunday, to at least grab some extra points. That’s the only thing we can do.”

A good place on the road on Sunday comes courtesy of patience and eventual pace through Friday and Saturday.

Talking more broadly about the car and the chances, Neuville added: “Success in Portugal comes down to the same factors as always: we need consistency, a good setup and confidence in the car.

“Road conditions and position will also make a huge difference to how we perform: whenever it’s raining we will be fast, when it’s dry we will struggle more because everyone knows the stages well.

“I was happy with the car in the pre-event test, and we focused on a setup that would bring me the necessary confidence to push in very slippery conditions. This more precise car is needed for all the corner combinations, but I still need some of the traction we focused on in Kenya.”