I'm still Hyundai's lead WRC driver, Thierry Neuville insists

Thierry Neuville insists he still goes into 2016 Hyundai's top World Rally Championship driver, despite a slump that led to a team status demotion at the end of this season

I'm still Hyundai's lead WRC driver, Thierry Neuville insists

The Belgian gave Hyundai its first WRC win in Germany in 2014 and began this year as undisputed number one driver, fighting the Volkswagens for victory on round two in Sweden.

But his form dipped mid-year, and by the season finale in Wales he had been placed in Hyundai's second-string team as Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo were given precedence.

Neuville still finished 2015 as Hyundai's top scorer in fifth in the championship, but only one point ahead of Sordo and six clear of Paddon.

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This year the team has declared all three drivers start with equal status and will be rotated across its line-ups, and even went as far as stressing that the trio were listed in purely alphabetical order in its recent 2016 launch communications.

Asked if he could reassert his authority over a team that he had made his own, Neuville told Autosport: "For sure. I think we have led it this year - we are still first Hyundai.

"In the end, the others didn't do better."

Neuville lost his focus when Hyundai delayed the New Generation i20 WRC's launch from mid-2015 to the start of the new season, a decision he was unhappy with.

"I criticised the team and maybe that was not very clever, but I think it was necessary," he said.

"After this things got more difficult. But it doesn't change what happened. I can only look forward."

GALLERY: Hyundai's new i20 WRC

Neuville urged his 2015 critics to look deeper into the stages times and particularly the road positions the three drivers

"We were not on the floor," he said. "The trouble is, people don't take time to analyse properly the situation.

"When [Sebastien] Ogier is running first, [Jari-Matti] Latvala second, [Andreas] Mikkelsen third and I was fifth, it's much easier [for Sordo and Paddon] when they are 10 and 11 on the road.

"This was a massive thing everywhere this year. The only rally where it was an advantage for me was in GB and I was leading both of them when we lost the wheel; we had only done two stages and already we had a good gap."

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