Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan believes Thierry Neuville’s nail-biting win at Rally Italia Sardegna shows how competitive and exciting the 2018 WRC season is.
Neuville won all four stages on Sunday before dramatically overturning Sébastien Ogier’s lead in the Live TV Power Stage to take the rally victory by 0.7sec – the third-smallest winning margin in the 45-year history of the WRC.
After the rally, Nandan said the battle between the two drivers proved the competitive strength of the championship.
“When the day started we knew it would be tough, but it was good for the sport,” he explained. “The battle started on Saturday and continued on Sunday morning. Seb and Thierry were not giving up.
“To have a fight like that proves this sport is competitive, very interesting and a really, really good thing for the fans. Ok, the best is to win but for me, it was more interesting in a sporting way.”
The result gives Neuville a 27-point lead in the drivers’ standings, but it wasn’t plain sailing for the Belgian. Mechanics were forced to replace the fuel tank inside his i20 during Saturday’s midday service after a fuel pressure issue presented itself on a road section.
“Our mechanics worked quite a lot repairing Thierry’s car, as well as making it new again for Saturday as well. They did a really good job as they always do, especially here – it’s a tough event,” Nandan added.
The victory also extends the Korean manufacturer’s lead over M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in the manufacturers’ championship to 28 points. But with Neste Rally Finland (26-29 July) next on the calendar, Nandan is keeping his expectations in check.
He said: “Of course we are pleased to extend our lead, but there are still six events to come. We know the next one is tough – Finland is never so good for Hyundai. I don’t know why, we are working on that.”