Neuville was in a rush to grab Evans's lead on Friday as Abiteboul believes

The team principal of Hyundai Motorsport, Cyril Abiteboul, believes that Thierry Neuville was in a hurry to steal Elfyn Evans's lead in Japan on Friday as his driver arrived at the final WRC round with high expectations.

The Belgian driver was leading Rally Japan after the superspecial stage at Toyota Stadium on Thursday, but Evans managed to be at the top of the overall classification at the end of Friday morning by setting the fastest time in SS2 and SS3 and taking over one minute compared to his rivals on these two stages. Neuville dropped two places and was third overall at the end of Stage 2, but he was in second place until the start of Stage 6 where he understeered off the road and into a tree, just 100 meters into SS6. He was forced to retire for the rest of Friday afternoon loop due to a suspension damage, but the Hyundai mechanics managed to repair his i20N for Saturday and eventually restarted under the regulations of Super Rally on the penultimate day of Rally Japan. Finally, it must be mentioned that he finished 13th overall and won five stages totally, but his Saturday afternoon was not perfect as he had no hybrid boost in Stage 15 while he was trying some new things to his car for 2024.

"Thierry was able to navigate around all of the challenges of the morning and his motivation was high when the afternoon loop started in better conditions", Abiteboul said.

"We were all very impressed with his first stage of the Friday afternoon, which cut the gap by 15s to Elfyn.

"He was probably a bit too much in a rush to recover the gap to Elfyn which led to a mistake and a misjudgement of the speed to tackle that compression.

"It is what it is. 

"But it is tough losing two cars, and Esapekka is not feeling well at all at this rally and is clearly struggling with confidence after a bad stint of events that he has been through lately, so it is difficult.

"Thierry was very clear arriving here that it was almost victory or nothing. 

"There was nothing at stake in the championship, so I think he wanted to get that victory for him and the team and finish on a high.

"This always means that risk will be taken and we probably took a bit too much risk".


Photo Credits: Hyundai

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