Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is all set to face his most eagerly awaited appointment of this year’s World Rally Championship: The Ypres Rally. After the disappointment that followed the cancellation of the very first Belgian round in 2020, the time has finally arrived for the Saint Vith pilot to shine in his home country, August 15-18.
Neuville, currently third in the standings, remains the best-classified driver of the South Korean squad. Hyundai’s results so far have been very poor this season and so the Belgian driver is their only remaining hope in their bid for the crown.
Neuville’s reliable and consistent performances have yielded him five third places (Montecarlo, Finland, Croatia, Sardegna, and Estonia) in the first seven rounds of the year. It was only in Portugal & Kenya that he was unable to perform to his level.
Despite his good result, however, he has not stepped on the top of the podium yet. Perhaps he just needs a little push from his compatriots. In any case, this is a very significant appointment for the Belgian driver.
With five races to go till the end of the championship, Neuville is still 52 points down from the leader and seven-time champion, Sébastien Ogier, but here in Belgium, he is set to assert his authority with a triumph. That would be his only real chance to keep his fight for the 2021 title alive.
Neuville, optimistic at home round
Thierry Neuville, an expert asphalt driver, is optimistic regarding his chances of winning. At the end of the day, he knows the track like the back of his hand. He won the Ypres Rally Masters 2019 onboard his i20 WRC as the race allowed for World Rally Cars to compete despite the test being based on the R5 regulations.
He has taken part in the Flemish race on a total of seven occasions and is the only important WRC driver to have ever participated in that event. Added to this are his skill and the great performance of his machine on the tarmac.
Also, since the beginning of the season, he has been getting increasingly comfortable with his new co-driver, Martijn Wydaeghe. All in all, this will be a great opportunity for Thierry Neuville to conquer the top of the podium again.
The 2017-19 world runner-up is aware and confident about his chances of success: “I think I could be the favourite at the Ypres Rally; however, it is something that I have to demonstrate when we are competing.”
Neuville also made reference to the unpredictability of the weather conditions in the region and the impact that these could have on the race:
“As for the weather now in August I think we can still expect it to be mostly dry, but it could be mixed and if it’s wet, starting in third wouldn’t be the best option. We’ll see what happens when we get to Belgium”.
Images of Thierry Neuville: Hyundai Motorsport.