Tue 01 Mar 2022

Neuville podium puts smiles on Hyundai faces

Thierry Neuville believes second place at Rally Sweden on Sunday will relieve the pressure on his beleaguered Hyundai Motorsport squad.

The Korean manufacturer endured a torrid opening to the season at Rallye Monte-Carlo with its all-new hybrid-powered i20 N Rally1 car. Neuville was the team’s only finisher in a lowly sixth place, with both Ott Tänak and Oliver Solberg retiring.

Expectations were muted ahead of the second round in Sweden but Neuville performed strongly. He topped the leaderboard during a thrilling opening leg before bagging a podium finish. He won two speed tests while Tänak was fastest on four more.

“It’s a big release for everybody. We couldn’t expect when we came here that we would be able to be in the lead after the first day of Rally Sweden,” Neuville smiled.

“First of all because we thought that in terms of performance we probably still miss something, as well as the road position I had. We couldn’t imagine that after the first day we could be in the lead.

“But somehow the first day was a very strong day, everything worked fine and I felt really strong in the car. The second and third day were a bit more difficult but in the end I would say [it’s a] job well done and everybody is happy.”

With a gap of almost two months between Sweden and the Croatia Rally (21 - 24 April), Neuville is optimistic further progress can be made in developing the car.

“We now have one-and-a-half-months to prepare ourselves and the car for Croatia. These weeks will be very important, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but after this result we can look ahead to the upcoming events with more positivity,” he added.

Deputy team director Julien Moncet was a relieved man in Umeå on Sunday afternoon after achieving his pre-event goal of having all three cars at the finish, with one on the podium.

“This second place really feels like a victory for us. Don’t get me wrong, we are here to win but after some tough months – and especially the disappointment of Monte-Carlo – we are back on the podium, and it feels great,” he enthused.

“We know there is still work to be done, and improvements we need to make on the car, but we have shown we’re getting there. This is an important result, but we hope it’s just the start of our return to the top.”

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