The Hyundai driver has spent the past few weeks testing the Korean brand’s i20 2022 prototype and adapting to the new challenges of driving with a mandatory 100 kW hybrid system.
Neuville is particularly vocal against the WRC’s new Rally1 regulations, which introduce hybrid alongside reduced aerodynamics and suspension travel, while the center differential has also been removed.
The Belgian rejected the future direction of the WRC last month, noting that it was a “pity” that “no one has the balls to make other decisions and go against what the FIA decides”.
While the cars will be stripped in certain areas, they will be much safer thanks to a much sturdier chassis and when hybrid is deployed, cars will produce 500 horsepower, significantly more than the current generation of WRC machines in use since 2017.
While Hyundai’s prototype is far from being the final product, Neuville says the hybrid driving experience so far has been very unpredictable due to the focus required on recovering energy during braking to use when accelerating.
When asked for his feedback on driving the Rally1 car in a media briefing ahead of this weekend’s Rally Spain, Neuville said: “It’s Formula E driving on a rally road.
“It’s very early to say how it’s going to be. A lot of things aren’t working as they should with the hybrid system yet, getting real feedback is very difficult.
“For me so far it will be a change [of driving style].
“The goal is that you have to recover energy during braking to make the [hybrid power] on acceleration. If you don’t hit the target while braking, you won’t have any extra power on exit, making the whole thing inconsistent and unpredictable.
Hyundai I20 N WRC Rally1
Photo by: WRC.com
“At the same time, if you hit your target and you accelerate and once you lift the accelerator, you lose all the power you have available. It’s been very inconsistent so far.
“We need to move forward more with testing, there are too many things that are not clear yet.
“I don’t know if anyone will be a big fan of the early versions of this new car. The only thing that’s exciting is that nobody knows where we’re going and what to expect next year.”
Turning to the penultimate round of the 2021 WRC in Spain this weekend, Neuville is confident he will be able to fight for victory after a disappointing Rally Finland that ended with retirement due to a water leak.
Neuville started his Rally Spain by finishing third in Thursday’s shakedown, just 0.4 seconds behind tie Sebastien Ogier, who was 0.2 seconds faster than his Toyota teammate and title rival Elfyn Evans.
“In Finland it was the first time I had a high speed in the Hyundai there,” said Neuville.
“I think I did really well. I went faster than Ogier and it was just Elfyn doing a great rally.
“Craig Breen” [in the third Hyundai] started from 11th or 10th when i was third on the road there is no comparison.
“I’m not at all worried about our speed for this weekend. If the car feels good and I’m comfortable, we should be fighting for the win.”