Paddon tops times in Spain shakedown
Kiwi heads Ogier and Kubica in warm-up
Hyundai announced last week that Hayden Paddon would take Neuville's place in the main squad in Wales to allow the Belgian to rebuild his confidence.
In Spain, before this week's RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada, Neuville told wrc.com that while surprised by the decision, he is already feeling the benefits.
"I never expected to be in this situation - to jump from the first team into the second - but I think, together with the team, it will help me to get out of my current bad situation," he said.
"It's like we get a run for free, a rally without any pressure, where we can try to have fun and try and find back the big smile we used to have when rallying. It's an opportunity to get back the proper confidence and the good feeling before we start a new year with a new car in 2016."
Neuville joined Hyundai's new WRC team in 2014 after impressing at M-Sport and taking the runner-up spot in the 2013 drivers' world championship. But he has failed to replicate that success in the last two years, and in recent months his form slumped after the planned launch of a new i20 World Rally Car was delayed until 2016.
"I didn't lose my talent, and I know I'm still fast, but the last two years have been hard for me," Neuville explained. "I expected 2014 to be a very difficult season but 2015 turned out to be difficult too. Volkswagen took a step forward with their new car and we were expecting one too but it never happened. Expectations were maybe too high. At that point I was a bit disturbed and since then I never really found back the real Thierry Neuville.
"I was quite negative to the team, the car and myself as well in the last few months, but I have seen that this is not the right way to go. Now I'm very positive and things are looking good. I have had good discussions with the team. We are ready to work again in the right direction."