Happy new year and welcome to the toughest World Rally Championship season in history. That’s the message from Hyundai Motorsport driver Thierry Neuville.
The arrival of hybrid technology means the 2022 season will deliver the biggest rules shake-up since the arrival of Group B almost four decades ago.
Neuville said he is sure success this season is going to be harder to come by than ever – even with the full-time departure of eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.
“For me and for the team, the target stays the same for next season: to win,” Neuville told DirtFish.
“But I am convinced that this year is going to be one of the most challenging we have ever had. There are so many new things to manage and on top of that we have the [usual] difficulties we face as drivers in the conditions we will face on the rallies.
“It’s definitely going to be more work and tougher than it has ever been before.”
Asked if he thought the departure from the title race of the driver who has won eight of the last nine championships might make 2022 more straightforward from a competition point of view, Neuville replied: “Ogier going doesn’t change anything.
“If it’s not Ogier, it will be Elfyn [Evans] or whoever or [Ott] Tänak.
“The challenge remains the same – it was pretty close between Elfyn and Ogier [in 2021] and it was very close the year before as well. We will not lose any animation of the championship with or without Ogier.”
The driver who shares Ogier’s seat in a Toyota Yaris Rally1 next season, Esapekka Lappi, agreed that the title race will be close this season.
“Even if there’s one champion away this year, there is still many hungry drivers who will fight for the title,” Lappi said.
“We all know which ones they are and maybe we will have one driver shuffling the pack again. It’s going to be an interesting year.”