Belgian co-drivers Neuville and Wydaeghe don’t understand each other

Hyundai´s Thierry Neuville and his new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe finished third at the opening round of the 2021 WRC, the Rally Montecarlo, and they repeated that position at the Arctic Rally Finland last weekend (February 26-28). 

Both very impressive results considering the pair had only become partners shortly before the first round of the World Cup, and following the unexpected split between Neuville and his then co-pilot Nicolas Gilsoul. 

From the outside, it seemed that everything was running smoothly between the fellow Belgian teammates so far, who appeared to be perfectly matched. But the reality is not so straightforward. It turns out that they cannot understand each other very well when on board the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. 

This is not because of a personality clash, or because of their differences in style or strategy when they put their skills together inside the car; nothing like that.

Different native languages, the problem

It seems that although both men are Belgian, their different native languages have become an obstacle that compromises their in-race performance. 

Their particular places of origin within Belgium have, of course, different tongues. Wydaeghe comes from Flanders, a region in north-western Belgium where Flemish is spoken.

It is because of this that he sometimes struggles reading the notes in French to Neuville. The latter, on the other hand, grew up in the Wallonia region, on the opposite side of the country, where German and French are spoken. 

This linguistic difference means that Martijn lacks the fluency to express himself with precision when it comes to reading the notes of the itinerary, which also use special jargon themselves. 

Martijn is going to the school

In order to solve this problem, the co-pilot has already started receiving lessons to improve the fluency he requires for his extremely fast-paced communication work. 

“Martijn is already taking French lessons, in fact, he already did before the weekend (Rally Finland). I think if you listen inside the car, you can clearly see the difference (in the pronunciation). I’m sure he will continue to do so”. – Explained the official Hyundai Motorsport driver -. 

“Martijn is speaking French and his native language is Flemish, so sometimes already it’s difficult for him to get the right pronunciation and combined with the intercom issue which worked quite well with my former co-driver, I struggled sometimes to clearly hear the difference between a 50 and a 75 bend (at Rally Finland). Every time I was hesitating”. – Thierry explained -. 

They lost time and second place in finland

The driver from Saint Vith complained that his difficulty in fully understanding Wydaeghe’s instructions during Rally Finland could have made him lose up to 10 seconds on Saturday’s morning stages. 

Considering that only 2.3 seconds separated them from Kalle Rovanperä’s second position after their final attack on the young Finn, the Walloon champion is right to be frustrated. 

“There were a couple of ‘moments’ due to that, but also a couple of places where I lost time because I understood the corner was slower than it actually was. Maybe it cost us a second position in the end “. – Neuville said in relation to the Lapland race -. 

In any case, the pair will have another opportunity to perfect their communication system before the next round of the WRC in Croatia in April. On March 12-13, the Belgian partners are due to take part in the Rally Il Ciocco e Valle del Serchio in Italy onboard an i20 R5. 

Images of Thierry Neuville:

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