Thierry Neuville feels his Rally Sweden win was payback for the disappointment of throwing away a seemingly certain victory 12 months ago.
The Belgian went from zero to hero in the snowy Scandinavian forests. Last year he held a comfortable lead before crashing and ripping a front wheel from his Hyundai i20 at the short Karlstad trotting track speed test.
This time he fended off the chasing pack and survived a spin and a glitch with his car’s gearchange system to win the rally and take the lead of the FIA World Rally Championship.
“I don’t think about last year. This year is different, this year we took revenge at this event, but as well as this we took some really important manufacturer points with two cars on the podium,” said Neuville.
“This is the first time I lead the drivers’ championship with more than 10 points. Of course, I led before but not like this. It was a very important weekend for us.”
Neuville believes his 19.8sec victory over Craig Breen was more warranted than if he had won last season.
“We didn’t expect to take the lead so early in the weekend, so we have had to be clever to defend the gap at times, and then increase it when we could. I felt we deserved the win last year, but perhaps even more so this weekend,” he added.
Victory, allied with Andreas Mikkelsen’s first podium for Hyundai, enabled the Korean manufacturer to vault from last place after a disappointing Rallye Monte-Carlo to first in the manufacturers’ standings. It leads Toyota Gazoo Racing by a point.
Hayden Paddon drove a third i20 to fifth and team principal Michel Nandan was delighted with the way his squad bounced back after the opening round disaster.
“The championship is a still a long way away, but to go from fourth to first is great. All the crews did a really good job. They had a good road position but even when you have that, you still have to stay on the road,” he said.
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