Hyundai's Thierry Neuville says he is hoping he can use his victory on Rally Italia Sardegna as a “springboard” for the rest of the season.
Following his podium finish in the season opener in Monte Carlo back in January, Neuville has had a torrid year, but a fine drive in Sardinia, saw him beat Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala, leading the rally continuously from SS7 onwards.
“We've had some tough times, like in Portugal, but we've stuck together and our hard work has really paid off. This is a special result,” Neuville said. “The new generation i20 WRC has performed very well this weekend. It's been great fun to drive and we've felt comfortable. We didn't feel too much pressure in this morning's final stages, but just focused on getting the car safely through to the end.
“We did everything we needed to and we can now celebrate our second WRC victory. Hopefully we can use this result as a springboard for the rest of the season; it is certainly good for the confidence.”
Asked why he went so well in Sardinia, winning nine stages in total over the weekend, the Belgian replied: “First of all we had a problem free run, everything was working, we had no issues I would say and then, on the other side, I felt more comfortable than I have ever felt before, which makes everything easier to drive, you have more confidence, the pace notes are working better, everything was just easier, that is why I felt like we could push to increase the pressure on Jari-Matti.”
It was his second victory in the WRC, following his breakthrough success in Germany in 2014, but this time it was on merit and not because the VWs had gone out.
“It was different from our first victory, that was nice as well but one of the main competitors had to retire already. This weekend was different for us even if we knew we had good chances with the road cleaning and we like very much Sardinia. We knew from the beginning our chances were good to do well, we did not have any problems and finally we did well and we were able to win,” he continued.
As for the next event in Poland, Neuville is hopeful he can do well again: “If I am right I am seventh in the championship, so definitely it would be still helpful in the coming events, but like I said the feeling has to be the same, the car has to work like it did and then for sure we can focus on a good result in Poland or in Finland.”
Finally, Neuville reiterated that he wants to dedicate this triumph to his mentor, Philippe Bugalski, as well as adding it is also for Jean Pierre Mondron.
“Today would be the birthday of Philippe, he was one of the main mentors to me, who invested a lot in me, a lot of time and help, and he gave me the chance to get in the WRC very quickly, so this is why I dedicated this win to him. It is a special win for me and especially on this day, 12 June, I am very pleased it worked out and as I said, this win is for him. But it is also for Jean Pierre Mondron, who died two weeks ago, who was one of the biggest fans and one of the biggest supporters in my whole career; this win is dedicated also to him,” Neuville concluded.