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Wed 24 May 2023

Neuville: “We have a lot to improve”

Thierry Neuville has voiced the need for improvements to his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 after a challenging outing in Portugal earlier this month saw him finish fifth overall.

Having started the final day of the FIA World Rally Championship’s fifth round locked into a podium battle with team-mate Esapekka Lappi, Neuville plummeted down the order after limping his car through the closing stages with turbocharger failure.

Speaking after the event, the Belgian, who now sits fifth in the drivers’ championship standings, voiced the need for improvements on his i20 N after struggling to match the pace of rival team Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Yaris cars.

“We have a lot to improve,” Neuville admitted. “I mean, set-up wise, during the weekend I tried all the directions and we never found something really that gave us more pace.

“[The next round in] Sardinia is again a different surface. The stage profile will maybe be a little bit better and, I mean, in Mexico we weren’t that far off. I don’t know if Toyota had some huge evolutions for this weekend [in Portugal], but definitely we were not on the pace.”

Earlier today, Hyundai announced the appointment of French engineer François-Xavier Demaison as its new technical director. However, when probed about any forthcoming technical upgrades, Neuville hinted at the possibility of a lengthy wait.  

“We can sit in the office and create some nice drawings,” he said, “but by the time the parts will be ready, we are already at the end of the season.”

Neuville will relish the advantage of starting next week's Rally Italia Sardegna (1 - 4 June) from fifth in the road order. He has won the event, which is based in Olbia, twice previously.