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AFTER his fairytale win at ADAC Rallye Deutschland last year, Thierry Neuville came within 6.4sec of another giant-killing performance at the wheel of his Hyundai i20 in Rally Sweden last weekend.

Instead, a well-deserved second kept him second in the drivers’ championship standings, while Hyundai are Volkswagen’s closest challengers in the manufacturers’ contest.

That’s quite some boost for Hyundai Motorsport, the WRC’s newest manufacturer, as well as for 26-year-old Neuville, who will take delivery of a new-generation Hyundai i20 later this year.

Here’s what the Belgian had to say after the rally:

Q: Top five in Monte, and now a second in Sweden. It’s a great start to the season.

TN: “Yeah, it’s a good feeling to have achieved something special for us and also for the team. Of course, we struggled a bit with the performance compared to the guys from Volkswagen. They are very strong and hard to beat, but I can be proud of what my co-driver Nicolas and I achieved. We did our maximum from the beginning to the end – going flat-out and trying to avoid mistakes. In fact, there were not so many mistakes. I think I lost maybe 15 seconds during the weekend. That helped us and meant we were able to fight for the victory. On Sunday though was hard for me to keep up the pace.”

Q: You nearly threw it away on Saturday’s SS15. Instead, you won the stage.

TN: “The repeat of Fredriksberg was horrible. Even being fifth on the road it was still very slippery and, yeah, I was maybe over-driving too much. I didn’t want to realise that it was more slippery than the morning and I pushed very hard. We had some big, big moments, and that’s where Nicolas told me to please slow down, because we wouldn’t have finished the stage.”

Q: How competitive is the 2014-spec i20 now?

TN: It’s difficult for us to fight with the top cars, but we have made some nice progress since last year and, yeah, there is more to come. Of course, we want to be in a position one day to fight every race for the victory. It’s a good achievement what we have done this weekend, and a good motivation to improve more.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.