Neuville: Fuel problem not down to Safari conditions

The reason for Thierry Neuville's Safari technical woes still isn't clear – but he's convinced it's not due to the roughness of the Safari Rally


The fuel-related problem that cost Thierry Neuville his hopes of a maiden Safari Rally Kenya win is not specific to this event, according to the World Rally Championship points leader.

Neuville’s Hyundai ground to a halt repeatedly through the afternoon – dropping him from second to fifth and costing him more than 10 minutes. Even though he was a minute and a half behind leader Kalle Rovanperä, the rough nature of the African classic means there’s always potential for drama. Today, the drama hit the #11 Hyundai.

Neuville and Hyundai’s senior management have been unable to pinpoint the issue and don’t expect to until they have reviewed the data from the car.

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“Four times in a row we got hit by trouble [on the Safari]. So, for sure it's not very promising and it doesn't give you the necessary confidence when you come to a rally like this." Thierry Neuville

Neuville said: “They’re going to analyze, but somehow we weren’t capable of fixing it. At the end, we were running in a safe mode in the last stage, which allowed us more or less 60% of performance, I would say.

“So somehow we got through without too much trouble. It’s a shame we couldn’t get that information before [Elmenteita] because we lost seven minutes in there and that would probably have kept us in front of Elfyn [Evans]. But it is what it is. We’re losing important points in the championship, that’s for sure. But it’s still early in the season and, again, we kept fighting and we’re going to continue fighting tomorrow as well.”

Neuville firmly refuted the consideration that Hyundai had traded reliability for performance with the i20 N Rally1 – he pointed to the squad’s troubled history on the Safari to evidence that thinking.

He added: “Four times in a row we got hit by trouble [on the Safari]. So, for sure it’s not very promising and it doesn’t give you the necessary confidence when you come to a rally like this. I felt good in the car so far. We were performing very well and we were lying second, despite cleaning the road yesterday and having a puncture. So, I think we were on a good drive, but obviously we were punished today.

“Clearly we know there are points to improve on the car, but with the current regulations it’s not possible to improve anything. I think that’s something clearly to review as well for the future, because if you want to have a competitive championship, you need to have competitors who are fighting and being on the same level.

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Neuville was forced to stop numerous times during the afternoon loop

“And clearly in Kenya, for four years it’s not the case. So it’s hard for the team to get it right because there are things we can’t change on the car and we have to work with it.

“But I also have to mention that the problem we face this weekend is not related to a Safari Rally.”

Technical director François-Xavier Demaison added: “Well, we’ve had a few things in the past. But things that we understood in the past, this one right now is not clear. Let’s see when we can see the data.”

Team principal Cyril Abiteboul talked DirtFish through the Neuville issue from the team’s side. He said: “We tried to do a number of things or to instruct the crew to do a number of things from where we were, but didn’t really find any way. The only thing that did work is to top up the tank at the refuel, which helped with the behavior of the fuel pump. But apart from that, it was very clear that it was intermittent: working, not working.

“Eventually the long stage he was able to do without too much trouble. Although a number of systems were not working, which meant that it was artificially slow. But we need to understand exactly, looking at the car, looking at the data when it’s available to see what we can do for tomorrow.”