Belgium ace Thierry Neuville has ruled out the prospects of another win ahead of Coates Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
Following on from his and the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team’s historic win at Rally Germany last month, Neuville classes the chances of another victory with four events remaining in the WRC, as remote.
Neuville led home team-mate Dani Sordo in a Hyundai quinella at the asphalt rally in Germany but any repeat would have to hinge on Volkswagen striking out again and also Citroen meeting a premature end.
Both VW drivers Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala and Citroen’s Kris Meeke crashed out of the lead at various stages in Germany, leaving Neuville with a saloon passage to victory.
“A win – I don’t think so,” Neuville told Speedcafe.com.
“Victory for us would be a big surprise again.
“I guess the Volkswagen’s would have to retire again and of course Citroen is very strong as well.
“I think we match the speed of the Fords (M-Sport Fiestas) more or less, not at all events but we are getting closer.
“Citroen has one of the strongest engines and they are pulling away as soon as the roads get quite fast.
“On the technical part we are on the speed and then VW is the strongest overall car and we really can’t match it with them.
“It would be great for us to be on the Citroen speed by the end of the season.
“We were surprised at the speed we could go from the start in Germany,” Neuville told Speedcafe.com
“We had trouble with the handbrake early on and a bit of smoke in the cockpit but then we managed to get more speed and we knew on the Friday we could get on the podium.”
Neuville and Australia’s Chris Atkinson, who is driving the #8 i20, say the cars feel a lot more agile and driveable after more development and some improvements with reducing the kerb weight of the Hyundais.
“We have always been carrying between 30 to 40kg over everyone else so it’s like we’ve been driving with three spare wheels in the car,” Neuville said.
“But we should be a bit closer on gravel than before.
“The shakedown times are not too bad.”
“We are running 35-40kg lighter now than the start of the year some of it has been with the new chassis and some with spare parts which we had to carry at the start because we had some trouble with it.
“The car is getting better and better. For Finland and Poland we had special dampers made for those events.
Neuville said his #7 i20 feels comfortable but not perfect ahead of this morning’s opening special stages.
“I started to test some different tyre options and some different dampers because we had no previous testing before this event,” Neuville said following the pre-event shakedown runs.
“So I had to do a couple of runs more than usual.
“I have to say it is not perfect but it is comfortable to start the rally.
“We were on the minimum weight on tarmac which we are not really on gravel.
“But the guys have done a big job for this event so we will be a bit closer to the minimum weight.”
Special stage 1 sees the first sweep through Hydes Creek over 10.73km starting at 9.18am (local time) followed by Bellingen (10.72km) with Newry (24.91km) ahead of the first service.
Those runs are repeated in the afternoon followed by two runs over the 1.66km Hyundai Super Special Stage to complete day one.
Stages nine through 14 are scheduled for Saturday with Sunday continuing with SS15 through to the final Wedding Bells Power Stage over 9.23km.
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VIDEO: Speedcafe TV’s wrap from Coates Hire Rally Australia Shakedown