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Thu 11 Aug 2022

Neuville yearns for Belgian asphalt

Thierry Neuville admits he is glad to see the back of the FIA World Rally Championship’s summer speedfest in Estonia and Finland.

The Hyundai i20 N man was almost four minutes off the winning pace as he finished fourth at last month’s Rally Estonia before coming home fifth in last weekend’s Secto Rally Finland – both ultra-fast gravel road encounters which don’t rank among his favourites.

Neuville’s attentions are now firmly focused on his home event at Ypres Rally Belgium (18 - 21 August), a tricky asphalt fixture through the farm lanes of Flanders which he won in 2021 after leading for virtually the whole distance.

“We’ve had two rallies in a row with exactly the same profile of stages, characteristics and driving styles which doesn’t suit me very well,” he told WRC.com. “We knew it was going to be two tough rallies and I can only ask for a couple of Tarmac rallies in a row!”

Neuville won’t get his wish, but three of the final five rounds are sealed-surface fixtures, beginning with an event he also won in 2018.

It is only the second pure asphalt rally of the WRC’s new hybrid era and the roads around Ypres will be very different to those encountered near Zagreb at April’s Croatia Rally.

“It should be a good opportunity for us to get a better result again and hopefully we’re going to be in a similar situation to last year where we can control the race,” he said.

“But it’s not given this year. Still the cars are new and we don’t know exactly what’s the real performance on Tarmac yet.”

Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Ott Tänak scored a surprise win in Finland but Neuville acknowledged he had no chance of matching his colleague’s pace.

“Ott was pushing really hard. He mentioned it himself and he was really exhausted as well at the end of the days. It was something I wasn’t capable to do this weekend, especially not on this rally.

“If you take the final classification, it is the result we were supposed to get if nothing went wrong and everybody is at the finish, more or less.

“I hoped a bit more for the Power Stage but obviously with four cars [covered by] one tenth, it was pretty close,” added Neuville, who picked up one bonus point from the rally-closing test.

Video: Ypres Rally Belgium trailer
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