Today we assess Thierry Neuville’s performance during the first half of the 2014 WRC season, as he tried to tame Hyundai’s new i20 WRC.
Neuville’s passage through the first seven rallies hasn’t been completely smooth. But that’s what you come to expect when a new manufacturer enters the WRC and uses a car that took little more than a year to travel from a computer design screen to the first asphalt stage at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Neuville was drafted into the Hyundai squad to bring experience and stability to the fledgling team. After all, he has started 39 WRC events and finished second in last year’s championship standings.
So far, it’s been a relationship that’s worked very well. The i20 WRC has set a clutch of fastest stage times, led rallies and Neuville himself has recorded a brace of third-place finishes.
He currently occupies seventh place in the championship standings having amassed 46 points – a feat that has pretty much exceeded everyone’s expectations.
His points haul could have been even more impressive if he hadn’t made a couple of silly mistakes at the beginning of the season in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
But Neuville and Hyundai bounced back strongly and both are expected to move even further forward in the second half of the season as a raft of homologation developments find their way onto the i20 WRC.
Rally Poland was where Neuville put in one of the best drives of the rally to deliver Hyundai’s second podium finish. He had found himself in 10th overall after a problem with a sticking handbrake, but he fought hard on Saturday to catapult himself into third place – a position he clung on to throughout the whole of Sunday.
Neuville will be hard pushed to ever feel as flat as he did after Rallye Monte-Carlo. It was the debut event for Hyundai and its i20 WRC and lots of distinguished guests had been invited along to share the excitement. But Neuville’s rally only lasted seven kilometres after he skidded and crashed into a telegraph pole. It was an embarrassing start for the Belgian.