Driver comfort, for the time being, is a thing of the past in the World Rally Championship. That’s according to Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville as the Belgian joins his colleagues in looking ahead to a brand new set of Rally1 technical regulations next month.
Hyundai’s drivers are slightly short on ’22 car seat time compared with their M-Sport and Toyota rivals after the fully formed i20 N Rally1 was later in breaking cover than the Puma or Yaris.
After his first day of running following his testing accident, Neuville admitted to DirtFish that he still felt short on experience with the new car. Since then, he’s completed two more days aboard an i20 N Rally1.
Neuville told DirtFish: “There are so many unknowns about next season. I have a decent amount of mileage, but definitely not enough to say I am 100% comfortable. I don’t think anybody can say that.”
Neuville’s initial test in the new car was cut short when he crashed off the road in the French Alps. Given the similarities in test road and rally route for round one next month, is he concerned about any psychological impact the crash might have.
It’s water under the bridge. Or off a duck’s back. Pick your own idiom, but Neuville’s thinking is the same. Falling roof-first off the edge of a 30-meter cliff in the French Alps is done. Finished.
It’s happened. He can’t change that it happened, so what’s the point in thinking about it? That’s why he has waved away thoughts that he might carrying any chassis-twisting negativity into next month’s Monte Carlo Rally.
There have been accidents before and they don’t change the approach to any eventThierry Neuville
“I have proved in the past that accidents don’t disturb me a lot,” Neuville said. “When I am back in the car with the helmet on my head… there have been accidents before and they don’t change the approach to any event. The target [to win] remains the same like before.”
Neuville was also very quick to pour cold water on suggestions that such a sizey pre-season shunt might have furthered his dislike of a regulation change he’s been more vocal than any other driver on.
“The accident,” he said, “doesn’t affect my opinion of these cars in any way [or] about these technical regulations.
He pauses, before taking the opportunity to clarify his thinking on Rally1 and 2022.
“I have never criticized going hybrid. I have only criticized removing some technical features which are not only interesting to work on, but also giving the opportunity to us drivers to perfectly set up the car for our driving styles.
“An aspect [of the 2017-2021 World Rally Car which was] also was helping for our comfort in driving the cars.”