According to Neuville, Toyota’s “Monte” dominance is no cause for concern

The first meeting of the teams in the 2023 World Rally Championship (WRC) season was clearly decided in Toyota’s favor at the Monte Carlo Rally.

Part-time starter Sebastien Ogier achieved his ninth “Monte” victory last weekend, 18.8 seconds ahead of team-mate Kalle Rovanperä. The first pursuer of the two Toyota drivers was Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville. After the 18 special stages (SPs) on tarmac, he was almost 45 seconds behind the winner Ogier.

The Toyota dominance becomes particularly clear when looking at the special stage best times. 16 of the 18 possible best times went to Toyota, just two to Hyundai. Neuville picked up the two for Hyundai on Saturday. However, he and team boss Cyril Abiteboul are not too concerned at the moment.

Neuville already knows the situation

“We experienced it in Spain last year, like them [bei Toyota] were stronger than us. At that time we were 40 seconds behind the leaders,” Neuville remembers the final phase of the 2022 season and in this context also the season finale at that time: “Then we came to Japan and were stronger than them there. We won the rally by almost a minute.”

“Compared to twelve months ago, we took a step forward. A month and a half ago in Japan we were stronger. We weren’t quite as strong here,” says Neuville and immediately has an explanation as to why the Hyundai i20 was modified in the winter N Rally1 could not keep up with the likewise revised Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, at least on the asphalt stages of the “Monte”.

“The set-up we opted for didn’t quite match the profile of the rally and the weather conditions. We were trailing behind all weekend,” said Neuville and continued: “But I don’t think we’re going to had to worry too much. We only had one day of testing and decided on a compromise that would have worked in all conditions. In the end it was just a completely dry, all-tarmac rally.”

Ex-Reanult team boss Abiteboul is calm

The new Hyundai team boss Abiteboul sees Neuville’s third place as a basis for the upcoming rallies in the 2023 WRC calendar. “It’s a podium finish and we can build on that now,” said Abiteboul in an interview for the English-language edition of ‘Motorsport. com’.

“There’s still a lot of time, but of course we also realize that points that you miss at the beginning of the season can be missing in the title fight at the end. We just have to make sure that we can get our best performance as soon as possible,” said Abiteboul after his first race weekend in the World Rally Championship.

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