Across the first three rounds of the new World Rally Championship season, the Alzenau-based squad's I20 N car has shown itself to be the most vulnerable of the new Rally1 generation machines.

At Rally Croatia, Neuville was hampered by a recalcitrant hybrid energy recovery system, day two engine problems, and a faulty alternator that resulted in him picking up a 40 second time penalty for checking into Friday’s lunchtime service halt four minutes late.

But there green shoots of recovery, with this made possible by Hyundai’s engineers redoubling their efforts to round off the car's rough edges in the eight weeks between Rally Sweden and Croatia.

Having failed to make an impression before arriving in Croatia, Ott Tanak came within an ace of ending a 14-month winless run in the competition. In the end, the 2019 champion was denied by a super human effort on the end-of-rally Power Stage by Kalle Rovanpera who turned a 1.4 second deficit into a 4.3 second lead.

Neuville survived a final stage overshoot, two flat tyres, and intercom gremlins on his way to third – a result that places him second in the drivers’ standings. However, if Hyundai is to take a first win of 2022, the work must continue, he said.

“It has been challenging, emotional, very up and down weekend,” reflected the Belgian. “Lots of frustration and sometimes a bit of joy as well, like this morning when we were able to catch back the third position which was our main target after the several issues of the weekend.

“So, I’m happy to be here now, even if we lost three possible points on the Power Stage. That’s the only thing me and Martijn gave away this weekend.

“The car felt better, that’s for sure,” he added, “but it would not be realistic to say that in one event we could catch up that much [ground] from the problems we had in Monte [Carlo].

“We have to stay realistic; we have made a step forward; we have got a bit closer but we are not there yet. In terms of performance but also in terms of reliability as well because in the first three races I got hit three times [with problems].

“I hope we can improve that as a team for the upcoming events. Somehow, we have two cars on the podium so for the manufacturers’ [title] it was a bit better weekend. But I think we still need to make some steps forward to win the Championship.”