Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul set about defending a 28-second lead on Saturday morning in Rally Sweden. They focused on keeping the driving clean, making no mistakes but mindful of chasing rivals, who were looking to reduce the gap. They were in control throughout the day. But got caught out in the evening’s super special, which abruptly ended their victory charge.
“There are really no words that convey how I feel right now”, Neuville admitted. “It was a very sudden end to what had been a good rally for us. 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 am so disappointed for the team, for Nicolas, and myself but we have to put it quickly behind us. We can’t dwell on such things, however frustrating. We know we have the pace to win rallies with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. I am sure the results will come. Tomorrow, we come back under Rally 2 and we’ll go for Power Stage points. We will then fight back again in Mexico.”
We didn’t want a repeat of Monte, but that’s exactly what we got, Thierry Neuville admits
#Neuville UPDATE: driving the car back from the SSS. We will check the car in service this evening and rejoin tomorrow under Rally2.
— Hyundai Motorsport (@HMSGOfficial) 11 February 2017
The other Hyundai crews – Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Hayden Paddon/John Kennard – are fourth and seventh in the standings
There’s still a chance for a podium and that will be the team’s aim until the rally’s finish.
Sordo said: “I enjoyed driving the very fast stages today, but obviously we are all sorry to see Thierry lose the lead of the rally this evening. It was hard to take comfort from winning that stage considering what happened to our team mates. Generally, we have tried to get into a rhythm today and to pick up our pace, but it’s not been easy. On the opening stage this morning, it was difficult to keep the speed through the corners. I then made a small mistake in the first Hagfors stage, SS10, which lost some time. Vargåsen is always fun, especially with the Colin’s Crest jump, but overall I could’ve done better on the loop. We couldn’t take it too easy in the afternoon with Breen so close behind, so Sunday will be about managing our gap to him, and securing fourth place.”
Paddon said: “Another day of two halves for us. This morning was difficult and physically demanding. Rallying on these stages with no power steering is a just incredibly tough. It felt like an extended gym session, or wrestling a lion – and coming off second best! To make it through the loop was an achievement in itself. With power steering back in the afternoon, it was like having a feather at the fingertips. We hadn’t done the two stages at speed so we were playing catch-up to find a rhythm. We are overdue a change of fortune, but I’m determined to end this rally on a high.”