Neuville says WRC title hopes 'finished' after Catalunya retirement
|By David Evans||Tuesday, October 10th 2017, 14:31 GMT|
Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville has all but conceded this year's World Rally Championship to rival Sebastien Ogier after retiring from Rally Catalunya last weekend.
A run of six-straight podium finishes, which included three victories, hoisted Neuville into a mid-season share of the lead with Ogier.
But the Belgian damaged his transmission and suspension on August's Rally Germany and failed to score, and last weekend hit a rock on the final day in Catalunya while attempting to make up time for a hydraulic problem that affected his Saturday.
Neuville is now third in the points and 38 behind Ogier with 60 left on the table, with Ogier's M-Sport team-mate Ott Tanak splitting the pair overall.
Asked if he thought his title hopes were now over, Neuville told WRC.com: "Yeah, OK, that's part of the game. We tried everything to fight back.
"We had [an] unlucky weekend, with some problems on Saturday. Now it's finished for us. But that's part of rallying.
"We have seen many ups and downs in the previous years, but it's like always: we win together and we lose together.
"We have to look beyond this, continue fighting, look towards the end of the year and finish with some nice results."
Neuville admitted he was concerned by the number of suspension failures on the i20 Coupe WRC, with team-mates Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen also retiring for that reason after hitting the same concrete block on the second day in Catalunya.
"I don't know if there's a weakness," he said.
"My part is to drive the car as fast as I can and give feedback from there while driving.
"Cars are not made to go through the bushes to hit the mountain, but we have to analyse and to see - if it is that the Ford survived where Dani and Andreas retired, then we have to see why we didn't."
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan said the Korean team would be investigating the failures.
"It's a very bad weekend," said Nandan. "When you try the maximum you can, you must take some risks - and now we have to take the consequence.
"All three cars stop with the same failure: cutting too much and damaging the suspension.
"But, I have to say it's difficult not to take any risks. You optimise the road and cut a bit everywhere; sometimes it works, but it didn't work here.
"It's part of the game to take some risks."
Asked if he was concerned that rival cars had hit the same post on stage 12 without being forced to retire, Nandan added: "If it's true, we have a big problem with the car.
"When you hit something you can damage parts. Maybe our car is more fragile, but it's like that and we can't change anything."
Even if Hyundai identifies suspension issues this week, there will not be time to implement and potentially homologate an upgrade before the final rounds in Britain and Australia.