Thierry Neuville has told DirtFish some of his concerns over the new Rally1 ruleset, which incorporates hybrid technology for the first time in World Rally Championship history, have been quashed.
Neuville has long been outspoken over his distaste of the new technical regulations, particularly last month on the lead up to the Acropolis Rally where he lambasted Rally1 as “definitely the wrong way” to go and was frustrated that nobody other than him “has the balls to take different positions and go against what the FIA is deciding”.
The Hyundai driver wasn’t overly expansive about what his specific gripes were, just saying it was a “pity” that the cars will be “less exciting, more dangerous to drive” and more expensive than the outgoing World Rally Cars – the fastest cars to have competed in the WRC.
But speaking to DirtFish’s Colin Clark during Hyundai’s rally simulation test of its i20 N Rally1 challenger, Neuville hinted that his main concerns revolved around safety.
“Of course there were a few concerns about the safety, some of them have been cleared up,” Neuville said when asked if his recent testing had helped him put aside any of his concerns.
“In case of an accident or whatever I think we are still pretty safe with those cars, even with the e-kit and all the features we have around with the green and red lights and [we can] see when the car could be potentially dangerous or not.
“But yeah we all know that the current WRC cars are really fast and the new ones are going to be fast as well with the additional power, we’re going to go up to 500 and something horsepower which is actually feeling really impressive when you’re sitting in the car, but on the other hand we are removing basically driveability.
“We are removing aerodynamics, we are removing the center diffs, we are removing the paddle shifts [for the gearbox] and a lot of features which are gone which were basically helping us drivers to keep a better control over the car.
“We have seen those current WRC cars [traveling] really, really fast on the stages, [looking] very impressive, but still there weren’t many accidents because the cars were very stable.
“In case of a difficult situation, most of the time we were still able to recover the cars as well because simply it was more easy for us to set-up the car to your driving style, on any event.
“With the new cars it’s going to be different because we will not have any choice for the differential so there will be only one differential ramp for the front, one for the rear, for the whole season on all surfaces for three different drivers.
“So it’s always about the compromise which wasn’t the case with the current cars. That’s a bit of a difference.”
Despite his lingering disappointment about the decreased level of sophistication with the new cars, Neuville did say he finds Rally1 “quite interesting” and made clear he’s not against the hybrid element.
I'm also convinced we're going to improve the drivability of the car, we're going to find some more performanceThierry Neuville
“Obviously I like new challenges and I’m not at all against this integration of the hybrid e-kit which definitely is going to make next season challenging but also interesting to follow,” he added.
“On the other side, yeah lots of downgrades on the technical side compared to the current WRC cars so they’re on that side [there’s] a little bit more disappointment.
“But, I’m also convinced that with the team behind me working hard every day and throughout the upcoming season we’re going to improve the drivability of the car, we’re going to find some more performance, we’re going to make everything just that little bit better which is going to give us again the similar sensation as the current cars.”