Thierry Neuville said his home country fans who poured over the border from Belgium inspired him to his maiden world rally victory at ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Sunday (August 24).
Neuville regards the German round of the FIA World Rally Championship as his home event and was mobbed by excited Belgians as he finished Sunday’s final Grafschaft special stage.
“If you looked on the stages you saw Belgian flags and Belgian supporters everywhere,” he said. “It was a great atmosphere to drive in front of such a big crowd, especially as it’s close to home because I was born 80km from Trier.
“It’s even more amazing to score my first WRC win in this rally with all the family members there who supported me over the last six years, in the good moments, but also in the difficult moments. It is nice to see that everybody believes in our performance.”
Neuville climbed from third to first in the final leg when first Jari-Matti Latvala and then Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead. His win marked Hyundai’s first WRC victory and was all the more remarkable in that he almost destroyed his i20 car the day before the start after barrel-rolling six times at shakedown.
“I think it will take a little bit of time to really realise what we’ve done and what we’ve achieved. I knew it was going to be difficult because our competitors are very strong on Tarmac, but we had a great weekend.
“On Saturday I pushed hard but without mistakes, just keeping the car on the road on a clean line and making the best tyre choices as well because we had really good weather information. I’m gutted for Kris and Jari-Matti, of course, they did the mistake,” he added.
Mechanics worked for 18 hours to repair Neuville’s car and enable him to start after his roll. It was only when he watched the crash footage, that he realised how big the accident was.
“When I saw the video afterwards, I realised how lucky we were. In the car, it actually felt quite soft. But then I saw the pictures and said: ‘I am lucky to be on the start line’. Maybe, after a six times’ roll, which I have never done before, perhaps everything got in the right position again in my head!” he said.