THIERRY Neuville’s disappointing recent form has cost him his place in Hyundai’s frontline team for next month’s Wales Rally GB, WRC.com reports.
Swapping places with Kiwi Hayden Paddon, the Belgian has been dropped to the second-string squad and will line up alongside Kevin Abbring for the final round of the WRC season on 12-15 November. Paddon will now partner Dani Sordo.
The decision follows a season in which Neuville has failed to show the pace the Korean squad expected. He is fifth in the championship with two podiums from 11 rounds.
Neuville was on the receiving end of critical comments from team manager Alain Penasse recently. He responded by saying he was unwilling to take risks with an i20 World Rally Car that could not match the pace of the all-conquering Volkswagen Polo Rs.
Hyundai said the decision was taken to help Neuville rebuild his confidence for 2016 away from the pressure of fighting for second in the manufacturers’ championship. The team is currently a point adrift of Citroën.
“This decision has been reached following a productive meeting with the team in which we both discussed openly our thoughts ahead of the final rounds of the season and planning for 2016,” explained Neuville, who said he could now focus solely on his own driving.
“This will be important as I strive to regain my confidence ahead of 2016. Next year will be an important season for all of us so this approach will allow me to get my pace back and enter the winter period in the perfect mindset.”
Penasse emphasised the decision was reached collectively and aimed to benefit both the team and Neuville.
“Picking up as many points as we can in these events is vital and the drivers’ form is key to unlocking our full potential. Talking to Thierry, we felt that we needed to find a way for him to regain his confidence and we think removing championship pressure from him will help him get back on track ahead of our 2016 campaign,” he said.
“Everyone in the team is 100 percent behind Thierry and we feel this is the right decision to take for Wales Rally GB. We have made a similar driver switch in the past to good effect and we hope this will again be beneficial not only to the team, but to Thierry as well.”
Paddon replaced Sordo in the main squad for Coates Hire Rally Australia and his outstanding performances this season are expected to earn him a contract extension.