NANDAN: NEUVILLE MUST LEARN FROM ‘BIG’ MISTAKE
Hyundai team boss calls for Belgian to learn lessons
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan has told Thierry Neuville to learn from a second major error in the first two rounds of this year’s World Rally Championship.
For the second rally in succession, the Belgian looked on track for a rally win, only for a mistake to force him into retirement.
Nandan said Neuville’s Monte mistake was understandable, but his error at Saturday’s Karlstad superspecial was not. He vented his frustration after hearing Neuville had crashed out of a 43-second lead at the 1.2-mile test with only Sunday’s three stages remaning.
Nandan told MN: “It’s really frustrating to see that we have done a not too bad job with the car, the car is competitive. But we have this mistake. The mistake on the Monte was OK because this can happen on this rally, but not in this kind of [superspecial] stage. It’s a small touch, but a big mistake.
“This is not something that should be happening in a two-kilometre stage. He needs to learn from this mistake and he has to be focused in Mexico. Yes, it’s only the start of the season, but we are not going to be able to catch these points back. But OK, now we have to look forward and look to the next round.”
In an accident reminiscent of the one Jari-matti Latvala suffered at the 2009 Rally Poland superspecial, Neuville went too close to a tyre marking the inside of the corner, clipped it and that pulled the wheel open and broke a steering arm.
Neuville said: “It was a slow corner and I turned at the wrong moment. The tyre hit something, a truck tyre (part of the inside barrier) and I lost the steering. At that point, the rally was finished.
“It would be frustrating if I did a mistake and destroyed the car, but I was doing the perfect job and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] as well. We can’t blame ourselves, we were missing some luck, even if this is another mistake, you can see from the images that we were not pushing too hard.
“We had spent all Saturday with a deliberate strategy to take things steady and to stay in control of the rally. We didn’t want a repeat of Monte, but that’s exactly what we got. I feel disappointed for the whole team that we lost the lead of the rally for a small driving mistake. It was another issue with big consequences for the championship. I am sure our approach to this rally was correct, until our misfortune, however our potential is clear and we have to focus on moving forward positively.”
Instead of leading the drivers’ championship, Neuville is 40 points adrift of series leader Jari-matti Latvala. Hyundai is 33 points down on manufacturer table-topper M-sport.