Thierry Neuville got some useful competitive kilometres during the WRC’s mid-season break when he used a Hyundai i20 R5 to secure his first Ypres Rally victory at the weekend.
The WRC drivers’ championship leader was never troubled as he dominated 15 of the event’s 23 stages to take victory by 40 seconds. The event was only the Hyundai driver’s second competitive outing in the Korean manufacturer’s i20 R5.
The rally allowed Neuville to keep his competition skills on point during the seven-week break between Rally Italia Sardegna (7-10 June) and Neste Rally Finland (26-29 July).
It also provided some handy asphalt competition ahead of the upcoming ADAC Rallye Deutschland (16-19 August).
“When we started, I didn’t have much mileage with the i20 R5, so I had to learn the chassis a little,” he explained. “But then we could make changes in service to the suspension and handling to constantly improve the car as I got more confident throughout the weekend.”
Neuville was on course for victory at last year’s Ypres Rally but crashed out of the lead on the first day. He said he didn’t want to risk losing a win this time around.
“At the Ypres Rally you can always end in a ditch, so towards the end we just wanted to avoid the mistakes and make sure we protected the lead,” he said.
The Belgian used his home event to promote Red Nose Day, a charity that supports children and young people with mental health issues. To highlight the partnership, Neuville’s car featured an eye-catching livery on the Ypres stages.
Also competing in Ypres were occasional M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver Bryan Bouffier and WRC 2 front-runner Ole Christian Veiby.
Frenchman Bouffier set the pace on the first test but crashed out a stage later. Veiby, meanwhile, also encountered problems as he slid off the road on Friday’s penultimate stage. He eventually finished 21st.