What’s troubling Neuville ahead of Monte

The Hyundai driver thinks there's still a lot to learn about the new cars before the stages can be fully attacked


Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville doesn’t feel the team is “ready” to go for an all-out attack on this week’s Monte Carlo Rally – but can’t say if either M-Sport or Toyota is either.

This weekend’s World Rally Championship season opener is the first for the new Rally1 generation of cars which bring hybrid technology to the championship.

Hyundai appeared to have a more troubled testing program than its two rivals given it ran its i20 N Rally1 for the first time later than M-Sport ran its Puma and Toyota tried its GR Yaris, and a terrifying testing crash for Neuville coupled to Andrea Adamo’s exit as team principal further complicated matters too.

Team personnel have been very clear that the team isn’t in trouble at all, but Neuville did drop his first hint that he might not be approaching this week’s Monte Carlo with the usual vigor he has in recent years.

“I can’t say that we are 100% prepared but on the last test I felt reasonably comfortable in the car and to drive in a good rhythm,” Neuville told DirtFish’s Colin Clark when asked how prepared he was.

“I don’t think we are ready yet to push straight away from the beginning but the target is to improve on the settings and get more feeling with the car.

“There are so many situations we’ve never discovered with the car. We don’t know its behavior, we need to get more familiar with the car.

“We are ready to start the season but we don’t know how ready we are to fight immediately for stage wins from the start of the rally,” he added.

“But we don’t know how ready the others are. We could be the most ready, like we were five years ago.”

2017 was the last time the WRC regulations were reset and although M-Sport won both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles, Hyundai created the fastest car initially.

Neuville was leading the Monte that year before retiring on Saturday’s final stage with a suspension problem.

Asked what his main concerns for 2022 are, Neuville confessed there’s no guarantee that the cars will be fully reliable – and reliability is set to be severely tested with the lack of a conventional service throughout the first full day of the rally.

“There’s definitely a big concern about the reliability of the cars, that’s for all manufacturers the same I’m sure,” said Neuville.

“Nobody has ever experienced a whole day of driving without any service so that’s the biggest concern for everybody. It’s just about getting the feeling and the confidence to go fast. Work a bit more on the setting.

“It’s important this weekend to do a lot of mileage on the road sections and the stages to get more information and valuable data from the car to prepare better for the next days.”

Words:Luke Barry