Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) finished third in Rally Sweden on Sunday. For the Belgian duo it is their second podium in as many competitions. Neuville is in third place in the World Cup standings.
Team manager Cyril Abiteboul admitted afterwards that every effort was made to give Neuville second place, but that it ultimately failed. He was satisfied with the second and third place of his drivers. For Neuville it was his 50th World Cup podium with Hyundai.
Thierry Neuville struggled with the after-effects of a flu on Thursday morning. On Friday he had a difficult day as second on the track. On Saturday the Belgian came all the way through and on Sunday he also came out strong. In total he won five classification stages in Sweden. “After a difficult Friday, in which we were one of the first on the road, I did not expect this great result,” said Neuville afterwards. “The preparation for this match was thoroughly disrupted. Because I was sick, a test day was even canceled. It is actually unbelievable that I still finish third here. As a team we drove a strong rally. Both Craig Breen, Esapekka Lappi and myself. Craig finishes second, Esapekka wins the power stage and we finish third. It was an excellent weekend for us.”
And yet things could have looked even better for Thierry Neuville. The Belgian won the penultimate GC stage after which the team set three goals: to position Lappi to win the power stage, to secure a double podium finish and to further Neuville’s ambition for the Drivers’ title by placing him second. Hyundai Motorsport played it tactically. Breen was one minute late at the time control of the final GC stage, was given a ten-second penalty that moved Neuville up to second. Everything was discussed with the drivers. In the end, after a mistake by Neuville during the power stage, Breen finished second.
“The opportunity arose to move Thierry Neuville up one place in the standings through a tactical intervention,” says Cyril Abiteboul. “But in the end it didn’t go as planned and so we have to accept that. As a team we have a good feeling about it and that brings a smile to everyone, including Thierry Neuville who made a fantastic comeback. He started the rally with a deficit and still finished on the podium.”