Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe are hoping to avoid any further communication issues hampering their success, with Wydaeghe taking lessons in French pronunciation to reduce confusion.
During Arctic Rally Finland, and most particularly on Saturday morning’s stages, Neuville struggled to understand all of Flemish native speaker Wydaeghe’s notes, which Neuville felt lost the Hyundai crew “five to ten seconds” and a potential second place.
Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen edged Neuville and Wydaeghe to that second spot by just 2.3 seconds.
“Martijn is working hard on himself to get a bit more of a French accent and pronunciation of the words so it can get a little bit more clear,” Neuville said.
“But it’s not easy role, especially at that speed for him, but we are trying to solve the problem.
“I struggle to understand a couple of the notes, not all of course, to understand them very clearly so then I miss confidence and I reduce the speed. So basically it cost us some time,” he added.
“He [had pronunciation lessons] already before the weekend and I think if you watch the onboards I could clearly hear the difference. He will do more, for sure.”
The issue has been exacerbated by the intercom used within the Hyundai that was set up based on the voice of Neuville’s former co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
I struggle sometimes to clearly hear the difference between a 50 and a 70, for example, and every time I'm hesitatingThierry Neuville
Gilsoul discontinued the pair’s 10-year partnership just a week before 2021’s opening event, the Monte Carlo Rally.
“Basically, we have a different communication system in the car. It worked quite well with my former co-driver, but obviously Martijn is speaking French and his native language is Flemish, so sometimes already it’s difficult for him to get the right pronunciation yet,” Neuville explained.
“Combined with this intercom system, which was basically made on the voice of my former co-driver, I struggle sometimes to clearly hear the difference between a 50 and a 70 [meter distance between corners], for example, and every time I’m hesitating.
“We missed getting his voice very clear through the intercom on some occasions, especially on higher revs and spinning wheels and also when going very fast most of the time.
“There were a couple of moments due to that, but also a couple of places where I lost time because I braked too much, I understood the corner slower than it was, so it maybe cost us second position.”
Despite the issues, third place on last week’s Arctic Rally Finland means the new partnership has never been off the podium in two starts. They are second in the championship, trailing Rovanperä and Halttunen by just four points.