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Tue 21 Jun 2022

Neuville targets Safari revenge

Thierry Neuville has one target this week – to finish the Safari Rally Kenya job he started 12 months ago.

Last season the Belgian dominated the African classic. He led for all but two special stages before smashing his Hyundai i20’s right rear damper on a rock in the final day’s opening speed test and retiring.

Neuville had been close to a minute ahead on the gruelling Naivasha-based event. At this week’s sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, he wants to erase the painful memory of 2021’s heartbreak.

“Last year’s event was tough,” he said. “I don’t think we deserved that retirement, I think we had driven well and we deserved the win. This year we are out for revenge.

“I have some good memories from my first visit to Kenya last year. It was a real adventure, as we got to discover the country, the culture, the beautiful scenery and the wildlife.

“But unfortunately, we left feeling disappointed as we were clearly in the lead and could have easily won the rally if it had not been for a small issue.”

Neuville starts Friday’s opening leg second in the running order behind championship leader Kalle Rovanperä and hopes to put last year’s experience to good use.

“It is a rough event where you need to find a good balance between pushing hard and knowing when to take it slower. The weather can also play a big factor. But I feel comfortable on the stages,” he added.

While he sits second in the drivers’ championship, Neuville has yet to register his first win of the hybrid-powered Rally1 era.

Once again, he demonstrated great pace at Rally Italia Sardegna earlier this month only for transmission problems and a crash to spoil any hopes of a maiden 2022 victory.

• Full coverage from Safari Rally Kenya will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park

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