Wednesday | 03 Mar 2021

Wydaeghe aims for top marks in French class

Co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe has signed up for French lessons to improve his pace note delivery alongside Thierry Neuville.

Wydaeghe hails from the Flanders region of north-west Belgium where Flemish is the native language. He reads the notes in French to Neuville, who grew up in the Wallonia region, on the opposite side of Belgium, where German and French are spoken.

They finished third at both the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo and last weekend’s Arctic Rally Finland after linking up just a week before the opening round when Neuville unexpectedly split with long-term co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

The duo had communication problems in Finland which Neuville believes may have cost them the runner-up spot, but the 32-year-old believes their relationship is gelling nicely.

“Already Martijn is taking French lessons, he did it already before the weekend. I think if you watch the onboards, I could clearly hear the difference and he will do more for sure,” the Hyundai i20 driver explained.

Video: Arctic Rally Finland - onboard of the rally

“But what impressed me the most is his calmness, he’s very calm. He’s very quiet all the time and you feel relaxed.

“He knows as well that he’s sitting next to a good driver but still there’s a lot of motivation and it gives me an extra boost again with some new things around me to push myself even more and so far, it’s working.”

Neuville said his uncertainty in fully grasping Wydaeghe’s notes cost up to 10sec in Saturday morning’s trio of tests. The gap at the finish between the Belgians and Kalle Rovanperä in second was 2.3sec after a late charge piled the pressure on the young Finn.

“Martijn is speaking French and his native language is Flemish. So sometimes already, it’s difficult to get the right conversation yet,” Neuville added.

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“Combined with this intercom system that was made on the voice of my former co-driver, I struggled sometimes to clearly hear the difference between a 50 and a 70, for example. And therefore I’m hesitating.

“There were a couple of moments due to that but a couple of places where I lost time way too much because I understand the corner was slower than it was. It maybe cost us a second position at the end.”

The pair will have a further opportunity to refine their system ahead of the next WRC round in Croatia in April when they drive an i20 R5 at Italy’s Rally Il Ciocco e Valle del Serchio on 12 - 13 March.

Team-mate Craig Breen will join Neuville at the opening round of the Italian Championship, with the Irishman expected to feature in Hyundai’s Croatia Rally line-up.