He does remember. Of course he does. But he’s not going to admit to it. Thierry Neuville doesn’t want to think too deeply about the Maria Las Cruces stage of this week’s Rally Chile. So he won’t.
It was in that stage – the same one that runs twice on Saturday – that the Belgian suffered one of the biggest crashes of his career.
Asked about it, he grinned and told DirtFish: “It’s too long a time ago and my memory is very bad.”
Back in 2019 on the WRC’s first visit to Chile, he was sitting in third place – having just won the Saturday morning opener – when he ran slightly wide over a cresty right-hander. His Hyundai tripped over and rolled. And rolled. And then… rolled some more.
“It was a big crash,” he said. “It was tough last time in Chile.”
This time he wants to finish the job he started.
“We go back with the target of having a good rally and finishing the weekend on the podium.”
And Neuville knows. He’s got the recipe for a good Chile.
He explained: “Rally Chile has only been run once before and this time there are going to be a lot of new stages, so our previous experience does not help our preparations too much. Because of this, the recce will be very important. For this [podium] to happen we will need consistency, a great feeling in the car and a setup that works well on the roads.
“If we can get all of those things to align, we will be fast.”
What does co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe think? Nearly new rallies are tough on those sitting in the right-hand seat.
“I can prepare with a lot of information from the team, as well as recce videos from 2019,” said Wydaeghe. “I think it will also be similar for everybody, including the people that have been there before, because only one of the full stages is the same as the last time the WRC came here.
“Even though it is spring in Chile, the conditions can be quite tricky – they had fog during the recce here before, which makes things quite complicated. But from the footage I have seen and the data I have access to, the profile looks quite nice.”
Finally, let’s get the boss’s thoughts. What does Hyundai Motorsport team principal Cyril Abiteboul say?
The Frenchman: “A mixed rally last time out in Greece gave us disappointment and success; we are determined to get on to the podium for a fourth consecutive rally.
“Each of our crews have experience in Chile, with Thierry winning several stages while Teemu [Suninen] and Esapekka [Lappi] produced fifth and sixth place finishes respectively in 2019. Despite taking on unknown terrain, we are hoping for a consistent run with the ultimate aim of bringing back a good haul of points from the podium places.
“We also want to show the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid’s full potential this weekend – it is the type of surface we know our cars and crews can perform on well.”