Hyundai's Thierry Neuville is aiming to make a 'fresh start' on Rally Sweden next week, the second round in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
Neuville crashed out in the very first stage on the season opener in Monte Carlo last month [see separate story - HERE
] and after that bitter disappointment he definitely won't want another DNF, especially given he was signed as team leader at the end of last year on the back of his impressive performances with the Qatar M-Sport WRT.
“After retiring at Rallye Monte-Carlo so early in the competition, Nicolas [Gilsoul – my co-driver] and I are really looking forward to getting a fresh start and we want to finish Rally Sweden for ourselves and for the entire team,” confirmed the Belgian.
“I don't have much experience on Rally Sweden – having only competed there twice before - and snow is probably my least favourite surface but it's a rally where I enjoy a lot driving and where we got a good result last year [when we finished in fifth place],” he continued.
“It's a unique rally - very fast, with narrow roads and big snow banks alongside the roads. We tested for a couple of days for Sweden back in December where we got the first feeling of driving the Hyundai i20 WRC in full winter conditions. We also started to work on set-up solutions for this specific event.
“We will have another day of testing at this weekend which will allow us to do some final adjustments and cover some more kilometres ahead of the rally,” he added.
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan meanwhile has underlined that it is critical for them to accumulate mileage and experience given the outfit is still in its infancy and he wants to see Neuville and Juho Hanninen, who will pilot the second Hyundai i20 WRC in Sweden, get through all 24 stages.
“Rally Sweden next week represents our next opportunity to develop the Hyundai i20 WRC and to collect valuable feedback and data,” Nandan remarked.
“Sweden is a specialised event where we will face several challenges: we have to ensure the car works in the extreme low temperatures, especially on road sections where the engine is not revving as high and make sure we have a good set-up for our cars to have as much traction and stability as possible. The third main challenge is the presence of snow banks on the side of the roads; it is very easy for the engines to digest snow even in the smallest collision.
“At Rallye Monte-Carlo, we didn't cover the mileage we were hoping for but we still learned some important lessons for the future. The objective for Rally Sweden will be once again to bring both cars to the finish and to accumulate as many kilometres and as much experience as possible,” he concluded.