Here’s a résumé of Thierry Neuville’s season so far. In his own words and with a bit of annotation.
Let’s start with Monte Carlo and a very forgettable sixth.
“On the powerstage, I drove for my life. I gave it everything and I really was disappointed when I saw the time on the board because I knew that I had taken every risk I could. Usually with a drive like that it should have been clearly the fastest time.”
He was third fastest across the rally concluding nine-miler between Briançonnet and Entrevaux.
“We had a tough weekend, but we go on with it.”
Sweden was much better – second on the WRC’s first visit to Umeå. Admitting he was relieved to have workable and meaningful points on the board, Neuville was clear that there remained a substantial amount of fear for the future.
He said: “We are really happy that there are now one and a half months where we can work flat out on the car to make it getting better on Tarmac. We know we are not there, where we want to be. Hopefully we will get it right and we are going to be competitive there.”
Croatia came and just about everything that could go wrong went wrong. The amiable Belgian had an alternator problem that stopped the car. When he got going again he was caught speeding (the two were not unrelated…), then he had to push the car into service. Then he had another engine problem and then he crashed on the powerstage.
What did he say?
“We never gave up. We brought the car back which we were not able to drive anymore and we set some proper stage times.”
Third place was a testament to that attitude.
And then Portugal. Coming out of Arganil on Friday afternoon, the #11 Hyundai was right on the tail of Elfyn Evans’ lead Toyota.
Then it fell apart again. A driveshaft problem on the i20’s left-front forced Neuville to work on the car yet again.
I don’t think I have ever worked harder than this. I’ve never driven harder than thisThierry Neuville
By the end of the day, he couldn’t contain his frustration any further. He let out one long, loud and very descriptive f-bomb.
“I gave it everything,” he said. “We gave it everything, but we can do nothing when we don’t have reliability. OK, we are still second in the championship, but the gap is getting bigger and bigger.”
And then the line which prompted this piece.
“I don’t think I have ever worked harder than this,” he said. “I’ve never driven harder than this. We have two podiums, but we could have had more than we have now, that’s fair.”
Neuville’s putting everything on the line in every corner at the moment. He’s driving above himself and beyond what the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 is capable delivering.
If and when the planets align and the Alzenau-built machine works like he wants, the Belgian will be flying.
If and when…