What happened in Neuville’s last-gasp Spain scare

Flames burst from the Hyundai's exhaust in dramatic fashion just before the powerstage

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The biggest threat to Thierry Neuville’s Rally Spain win last weekend wasn’t from rivals, but from another unexpected Hyundai technical mishap as his i20 Coupe WRC set on fire.

The dramatic moment happened just before the powerstage, with Neuville’s car initially stopped in the regroup area with a start motor issue and refusing to budge. A push start helped get him going, but at that point flames erupted from the rear of the car for a few moments.

There was ultimately no concernable damage done to the car or the people giving it a push, but it gave a lot of people a scare and soured Neuville’s initial victory reaction as it was fresh on his mind once he completed the stage.

“When the problem appeared we were luckily close to the TC of the regroup and we were able to push the car in the last few seconds to the control but after that there was a lot of hesitation to know if the car is going to restart or not,” Neuville told DirtFish.

“Luckily it did and we were able to continue.

“I mean it was a perfect weekend until then and it’s bittersweet now with the problem we had at the end. Let’s try to take the global event in itself and we were competitive, we had a good car and I think what we have to remember, especially for Martijn [Wydaeghe, co-driver] and myself, the sensation we took from the car this weekend was incredible.”

Neuville, like his Hyundai Motorsport team-mates, had a broken suspension plague him earlier in the season and then in more recent rallies he has suffered from engine stalling and other electrical gremlins.

And, while the flames look the most dramatic, it’s not the first time that has occurred either.


“Literally the car was on fire. We were making some flames but it is a problem that we have faced several times this season and it is not solved yet,” said Neuville in the post-event press conference.

“Sometimes the car just refused to start. With a bit of luck at some point it is going to start again or not. Then, the only way is to push the car.”

Neuville revealed it was marshals who were the people giving the i20 a push, but once the car got going the stress didn’t end as there was lots of “aquaplaning” on a very tricky run through the rally’s final stage.

Hyundai’s team principal Andrea Adamo, who has seen his team’s hopes of retaining its manufacturers title decrease due to the various technical problems that have cost it points this year, said he did “not know why” the starter motor had failed, telling DirtFish post-rally that “we tried everything in the workshop and in tests, every time we have no problem” and that the latest failure was not anticipated.

Photography:Hyundai Motorsport

Words:Ida Wood