Monday | 25 Jan 2021

Neuville sees long-term future with Wydaeghe

Thierry Neuville is hopeful his new partnership with co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe will continue for the rest of the season following Sunday’s Rallye Monte-Carlo podium.

Neuville admitted he was impressed with Wydaeghe, a last-minute replacement for Nicolas Gilsoul who decided against continuing a nine-year partnership just a week ahead of the season start.

Asked if he expected Wydaeghe to be alongside him at next month’s Arctic Rally Finland (26 - 28 February), Neuville said: “Yes, I think so. At least for the next rally Martijn will be in the car and if he does the things I’m requesting, I’m sure he will be in the car for much more rallies this year.

“He has impressed me, he is always in control with the situation. Even before the first stage I couldn’t feel any nerves. Before the first stage, maybe I was more nervous than him. Congratulations to him and thank you as well.”

With such a late change, the Hyundai Motorsport driver said he had no expectations for an event he and Gilsoul won 12 months ago.

Vide: Rallye Monte-Carlo review

“It was a little bit more than one week ago when I was in a strange situation, left without a co-driver,” Neuville explained.

“At one point we had to take a decision and, with the team, we were able to decide to go with Martijn for this rally. We have no expectations to come here, with no preparation in the car, we clearly didn’t know what to expect from this rally.

“In the last few years we’ve had some good speed and been on the podium, but my personal experience were definitely again to be on the podium – but I had to be realistic to know it could be more difficult than I thought.

Neuville admitted there were difficult moments, but they were outweighed by the positive steps the pair took together.

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“Martijn has done a good job, he discovered my pace notes last Saturday and this weekend wasn’t easy at all. There has been some difficult stages, but some good stages as well. We have to increase the speed a little bit, but the main thing we wanted to work on was the confidence and we have done that this weekend.

“Of course, he has done the job of a co-driver many times, but not in a World Rally Car which is very fast compared to other cars. And working with the gravel crew and all the changes you make in Monte Carlo; we had from black ice to snow to very slippery parts on Tarmac, the shiny black top and a lot of rain and standing water.

“It was a big challenge. It’s difficult to find a rhythm, there are so many unknowns on the road but day-by-day we were improving. We also had a bit of a struggle with his voice which is completely different from that of my previous co-driver. I struggled in the first day to hear him but we worked to improve that and by the end it was good enough for the result.”

The pair won two stages on their way to third place.

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