Hyundai demotes Thierry Neuville to second WRC team for Rally GB

Thierry Neuville has been dropped from Hyundai's primary World Rally Championship team for the season-ending Rally GB

The Belgian will be replaced by Hayden Paddon in the Korean firm's Shell-backed frontline team, with the Kiwi stepping up alongside Dani Sordo in Wales.

Spaniard Sordo will be entered in the #7 i20 WRC usually driven by Neuville.

Neuville drops to the Mobis-branded second-string Hyundai team, where he joins Kevin Abbring.

The team communicated the decision on Monday, stating that it was aimed at restoring Neuville's confidence ahead of 2016.

Many will view this decision in a very different light following team manager Alain Penasse's forthright comments on Neuville's lack of mid-season pace earlier this year.

Neuville said: "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.

"For me, the decision to move to the #20 car for Wales Rally GB will free me up from any championship pressure and allow me to focus solely on my own driving.

"This will be important as I strive to regain my confidence ahead of 2016.

"This is the right decision for me and the team at this time, and it is testament to our positive way of working together that we can reach this conclusion calmly and collectively."

Hyundai is currently one point adrift of Citroen in the race for second place in the standings, but Paddon has finished ahead of Neuville on six of the last eight rallies.

Conversely, Neuville has the strongest Rally GB record of the Hyundai drivers, with fourth last year and third in 2013.

Paddon has only started one Rally GB in a World Rally Car, finishing 10th in an i20 WRC in 2014.

Penasse added: "We have not reached this decision lightly but after a long and open discussion with Thierry and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver].

"Firstly, we know we need to fight as hard as possible in the remaining rounds of 2015 to secure second place in the championship.

"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.

"Everyone in the team is 100 per cent 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."

Sordo stepped down from the main team for Paddon at the recent Rally Australia.

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