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Tue 21 Mar 2023

Neuville: Mexico result a 'pressure release'

A second-place finish at Guanajuato Rally México lifted a weight from Thierry Neuville’s shoulders, says the Hyundai Motorsport driver.

Neuville’s Friday in the mountains around León was hampered by a series of technical scares, including a hybrid unit fault, seized suspension damper and damaged driveshaft boot.

But the Belgian fought back over the following two days, moving into podium position at the expense of team-mate Esapekka Lappi before piling the pressure on Elfyn Evans, who held second overall going into the final day.

Neuville finally surpassed Evans in the rally-ending Wolf Power Stage to clinch the runners-up spot by just four-tenths of a second. That, he says, was a big pressure release.

"I was enjoying the driving all weekend and having fun in the car," Neuville smiled. "Even if I pushed, I felt like I was controlling the push. To finish second at the end was a big release of pressure.

"Last year, the beginning of the season was a disaster and I think, after six months, we already knew who was going to be champion. We were nowhere in some of the rounds but somehow we survived by fighting hard and always keeping the car going when we hit trouble.

"Now, this year, it feels quite good. I feel also quite comfortable in the car, despite some little issues which we need to work on to be stronger than Toyota."

With a hat-trick of podium finishes so far this season, Neuville and co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe sit second in the championship - three points back from leader Sébastien Ogier.

Best of Action: WRC Guanajuato Rally México 2023

Neuville now looks forward to being back on asphalt at next month’s Croatia Rally (20 = 23 April). He has finished third overall at the Zagreb-based event two years in a row.

“I am looking forward [to Croatia],” he said. “Two times at this rally, and each time I have been leading, so the target is definitely victory.

“I love the roads over there - they are really challenging and really fun. If we feel as comfortable as this weekend, it’s going to be another nice fight.”