Thierry Neuville had to settle for seventh place on Rally de Portugal this weekend, with a transmission problem in the event ending Power Stage costing him over 20 seconds and one spot on the leaderboard.
Neuville struggled initially on Friday, but improved in the afternoon, and claimed his first stage win with the Hyundai i20 WRC. He then ran as high as fifth until he damaged the suspension during Saturday afternoon's longest stage, SS12, which necessitated a slow end to his day and a loss of over 8 minutes. He then had another problem in the final test on Sunday and eventually come home 5.1 seconds behind Martin Prokop's Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
“It's been a tough rally for us but we have continued to fight and we have some positive elements to take away from Portugal,” said Neuville, who gave the new Hyundai team its first podium in Mexico last month.
“Of course, claiming our first stage wins on Friday was a highlight but I have been pleased with the performance of the Hyundai i20 WRC in demanding conditions. We had to make a cautious start but we made some key set-up changes and gained more momentum as the rally continued. A transmission issue meant I could not push for the Power Stage today, but we have made it to the end of the event which is always our top priority.
“We had a good rhythm this weekend and we can be happy with the progress we have made since the beginning of the season. Overall it was a good Rally de Portugal and I think we are getting more confident with each event.”
Team-mate Juho Hanninen meanwhile finished eighth in the sister car after a number of issues, including hitting a tree on the final day in Loule 1.
“It has been a difficult rally for us that's for sure,” Hanninen remarked. “From the first loop on Friday we have experienced issues that have hampered our progress but we never gave up.
“These things are part of WRC events and it is precisely why we are here as a team: to learn and build up our experiences with the Hyundai i20 WRC in a competitive environment. It has been a pleasure to be part of the team once again and to fulfil our objective of reaching the end of the rally. To bring the car home in the top eight is still an achievement for us and will give us something more to build on for the future events.”
failed to finish in the third car, the 'Hyundai Motorsport N 'entry, with a front left driveshaft failure putting him out on Sunday morning en-route
to the first test. He had been running fourth overall. He also helped Hyundai to a milestone on Friday by taking two impressive stage wins in the morning loop to lead the rally after the third stage.