Thierry Neuville enters next week’s Croatia Rally with ever increasing confidence in his new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe, after it was revealed he had been taking weekly French lessons to improve his pace note delivery.
The pairing have secured two recent wins in their warm-up efforts for Croatia, with victory in Sanremo in a Hyundai i20 World Rally Car following victory aboard a Hyundai i20 R5 on Rally Il Ciocco e Valle del Serchio in March.
But the improved understanding between himself and his co-driver in Sanremo pleased Neuville as much as the win itself. Speaking to WRC.com he said: “Rally Sanremo was really good. I felt really comfortable to push in the afternoon. We had lots of changes in the weather and lots of information in the notes, but Martijn did a really good job. From the French side, he’s improving all the time. He’s taking lessons every week and so it’s better on every rally.”
After Neuville was forced to make a late co-driver change days before the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo after splitting with previous long-term co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, the new pairing have struggled with communication problems in the opening two rounds so far. The new pairing hail from opposite sides of Belgium where variations of the language the speaking have caused issues.
Despite all this the pair have had a consistent start to the season with a third place finish on both the Monte Carlo Rally and Arctic Rally Finland, though Neuville admitted the tarmac event would prover a sterner test.
“It’s harder on Tarmac, there’s more information to deliver, especially with the gravel crew information coming as well. But in Sanremo we had one stage which was a nightmare for the co-driver, just so many notes to read, but he managed very well. I know Croatia will be tough, but I’m very confident Martijn will be on top of it.”