Hyundai Motorsport’s Rallye Monte-Carlo got off to the worst possible start this morning when star driver Thierry Neuville crashed out on the opening stage.
The rising star, who finished a mighty second in last year’s FIA World Rally Championship standings, was giving Hyundai’s i20 WRC its competitive debut in Monte Carlo.
But a promising start quickly unravelled 6kms into the snow-covered first stage at Orpierre-St Andre de Rosans. He was 4.5 seconds faster than the rest of the field at the first stage split, but crashed off the road soon afterwards.
He was using Michelin’s super-soft tyres, like the majority of the competition around him. The Belgian and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were okay, but bitterly disappointed to have exited so early.
His retirement this morning marked the fourth consecutive time he has departed Rallye Monte-Carlo on the opening day.
He said: “It was very simple. We went too fast into a right-hander and lost the front end of the car. We spun and crashed the rear.”
Hyundai Motorsport team manager, Alain Penasse, told WRC.com: “We are disappointed because we agreed that he would go for a smooth start because we know conditions would be difficult.
“If we compare the split to that of Ogier, Thierry was 4.5s quicker which is a huge difference. I think maybe he started a little too quick and wasn’t taking into consideration the winter conditions that were a reality at that moment.”
Neuville wasn’t the only competitor to get caught out on the first stage as unexpected snow greeted the field. World champion Sebastien Ogier lost time after he crashed into a wall on the first corner.