HYUNDAI CAN IMPROVE i20
Thierry Neuville is confident there is more to come from Hyundai’s all-new i20 WRC on next month’s Rally Sweden following its debut podium in Monte Carlo last week.
Neuville ended the event in third place, although he was two minutes down on rally winner Sebastien Ogier – with much of that time loss coming on a disastrous start for the team. The i20s were running too soft on Thursday and Friday, robbing the drivers of confidence.
Neuville said: “We cannot say we are on fire when we are two minutes behind the winner, but we are learning more and we are improving the car. We are still missing mileage and knowledge but, with every kilometre, this is getting better.”
The Belgian, who set two fastest times on Saturday, said he wasn’t worried about the lack of pace on Friday and pointed at Sweden as a more realistic benchmark for the pace of the new car.
“I knew about the settings, I knew I wasn’t confident and I knew I was still learning,” he said. “We should be quicker in Sweden with the rhythm. We have a good reference from last year and I hope we will be in the game from the beginning.”
Team principal Michel Nandan added: “During the first days the car was not set-up for the conditions. It was our mistake. We should have done a full Tarmac setting.”
Wholesale changes on Friday night offered a marked improvement for the weekend.
“The car is better than the old one,” said Nandan. “There is no doubt about this. It’s difficult to know how much closer because of the conditions and running different tyres and then, of course, in the end of the event Sebastien [Ogier] was cruising. In Sweden we will know more about the speed from the car. It’s an event where you will probably see how much we have closed the gap.”
Neuville managed a problem with the centre bearing on the car’s propshaft – which left him in front-wheel drive only for the final stage – to finish third, ensuring Hyundai ended the event joint top of the manufacturers’ standings.