Sun 11 Sep 2022

Neuville's relief at Acropolis win

Thierry Neuville has talked of his relief at bringing home his first victory of the WRC's hybrid era at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece.

Eleven months had passed since the Belgian driver last stood atop the podium at Rally RACC - Rally de España in October 2021. 

Top-three results early this year in Sweden and Croatia showed Neuville’s potential aboard his i20 N machine but he remained unable to string together a victory. A crash whilst leading on home soil at Ypres Rally Belgium added insult to injury - but everything changed on Sunday afternoon. 

Leading the way in a momentous maiden 1-2-3 finish for his Hyundai Motorsport squad, Neuville admitted the result had been a long time in the making. 

“I knew it would come at some point,” Neuville smiled. “We’ve just had a very difficult time this last couple of events and the speed simply wasn’t there. We had the speed at the beginning of the season but we didn’t have the reliability.

“Looking back, I think if we had won in Belgium then it would have been much more challenging to do it here,” he continued. “We would probably have been second in the championship and it would have been a similar situation to Ott [with a high Friday road position.

“At the end, I think it was one or the other. But for sure, I would have preferred to win in Ypres already and to be on the podium here.”

The 34-year-old’s result moved him 21 points closer to championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, whilst Hyundai now sits 63 points back from Rovanperä’s Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the manufacturers’ title race.

Neuville was quick to praise his team - adding that the 1-2-3 finish was more important than taking the win. 

“We have three cars on the podium,” he said. “I mean, that’s definitely the main thing to remember from this weekend - the 1-2-3, which is very much deserved. 

“After a lot of ups and downs, we had some highs but we also had a lot of lows as well over the past few years. This result is a historical moment for the team, for the brand and for the manufacturer and I think we have shown this weekend that we are on the right way.”

Neuville heads to the next round in New Zealand later this month as one of few drivers with experience of the event. He competed there when it last featured on the calendar in 2012, finishing fifth overall.

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