Thierry Neuville has admitted his below-par performance at Rally Italia Sardegna was partly caused by a pre-event test run in conditions unrepresentative of the near 40-degree heat experienced on the Italian island.
The logistics of moving cars between rounds seven and eight of the World Rally Championship meant teams were forced to test for Sardinia before the previous event, Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
Neuville struggled to make any impact in Alghero, ending an event he sensationally won in a final-stage shoot-out 12 months ago a distant sixth. He was more than two minutes behind his victorious team-mate Dani Sordo.
The Belgian struggled with tyre choice on the first two days of the rally and was forced into a transmission change to find more grip from the car as the event unfolded.
“I wasn’t really in the fight on this rally,” Neuville said. “It was not so easy – I never seemed to be on the right tyres and driving the car when we had no grip was not so much fun.
“For the differential problem, it was not 100 per cent [fixed], but I tried some new things to get some good feedback. We went with some different ramps in the diff. OK, you don’t go from black to white, it’s about [the compromise] with grip and stability, but I think we made progress.”
On the specifics of the test, Neuville added: “We had three days of rain and, obviously, the car was too soft [after the test]. We tested before Portugal and maybe that was a mistake – the temperature was definitely not the same, around 12 degrees and the road conditions were completely different.”
Because of those conditions close to Olbia, Neuville wasn’t able to run Michelin’s hard tyre which was used for half of the time during the rally.
Hyundai Motorsport director Andrea Adamo accepted the test wasn’t ideal, but added there was no other option.
Adamo said: “You can do mistakes if you have alternatives, if you have the chance to choose. For us it was not possible to test between the rallies. If there’s no alternative then you just take the best out of what is available. That’s the maximum you can do.”