Neuville wants to avoid blame game over pacenote error

A late pacenote contributed to an off that cost Thierry Neuville victory in Croatia


Thierry Neuville’s hopes of a Rally Croatia win that would, in turn, increase his World Rally Championship points lead, were ended by an off into a bank on Sunday morning.

Hyundai’s team leader had been battling his main title rival Elfyn Evans tooth-and-nail for two days prior. As fate would have it, both hit a bank on the same stage, one minute apart. But in Neuville’s case, the resulting damage to Neuville’s i20 N Rally1 hamstrung him for the last two stages.

Straight after the stage, he’d cut to the chase as to what happened: co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe had been late calling a note, leaving Neuville insufficient time to react accordingly.

But after the rally had finished, with the heat of battle finally starting to cool down, Neuville was trying to avoid pointing fingers. There was no mention of Wydaeghe by name, who he’d been having a riot with in the car the day before amid a bet between the pair.

Neuville told DirtFish: “Mistakes happen, whether it’s the driver or the co-driver.

“It was a tricky situation. The note came a little bit late and there was nothing I could do. That’s part of the job.

“Of course, the frustration was really high immediately, but in the end, I don’t point the finger on somebody. I do mistakes and co-drivers can do mistakes.”

Once upon a time, the asphalt roads of Corsica were known as a co-driver’s worst nightmare. The rally of 10,000 corners, as it is colloquially known, has been absent from the WRC for five years. In its place, Croatia is about as tough as it gets for the navigators; if a mistake was to happen anywhere, Croatia was a likely venue.


Neuville and Wydaeghae still finished on the podium even with their mistake, and scored only two points fewer than rally winner Sébastien Ogier

“They had a very tough job this weekend, like on all Tarmac events,” Neuville added. “It’s very challenging for them, lots of information, especially here on a high-speed event with compressions, crests and so on.

“A mistake is quickly done. I mean, mistakes happen here and there, but most of the time, there’s time to react. But there, it wasn’t. We paid the price, but I always say we have two in the car. I don’t want to blame anyone. It’s just what happened.”

Neuville finished third overall but having led the rally after Saturday’s action, he had already provisionally banked 18 points prior to his Sunday error. He added one more for being the seventh-fastest driver across Sunday’s four stages, putting him level with Evans for the rally as a whole.

Six points still separate Neuville and Evans in the title race, which resumes with Rally Portugal on May 9-12.