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WRC Rally Italy

Neuville felt Breen was with him in WRC Sardinia victory run

Thierry Neuville says he felt his late Hyundai World Rally Championship team-mate Craig Breen was with him throughout his run to a victory in Sardinia that ignites his title hopes.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Neuville scored Hyundai’s first WRC win of 2023 after coming through challenging wet conditions to lead a 1-2 for the South Korean marque, with Esapekka Lappi finishing 33.0s behind.

It was the first victory for the team since the tragic loss of Breen to a testing crash in April, leading Neuville and team principal Cyril Abiteboul to pay tribute to the Irishman in the victory celebrations.

"Its has been a while but it has been not that long either [since the last win in Japan last year]," Neuville told Autosport.

“We missed a great opportunity in Croatia and we could have had a victory already, but it is what it is.

“We have got a lot of podiums in total for the whole team, just no victory, and now we get a 1-2 which is a great result.

“I’m sure our common friend [Craig] was watching on and was with us this weekend.

“Craig [Breen] is in our memories - we wanted the win in Croatia, but we got it now.

When asked about the victory amid the emotion of the past few months, Abiteboul added: “A result like this one is a multiplication of small contributions from everyone.

“Thierry and Esapekka have contributed to the result, but Craig has been with us in our minds and in ours spirits and he is still very much a part of the team.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

“Every single minute I have been thinking of him and how proud he would have been of us winning in these conditions. He was a warrior and I’m sure this is the sort of win he would have enjoyed.”

The victory has lifted Neuville to second in the championship standings heading into the seventh round of the standings in Kenya on 22-25 June.

The Belgian now sits 25 points behind Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera, who finished third in Sardinia while claiming the five bonus points for winning the Power Stage.

“We had a clever race this weekend and back in P2 in the championship,” reflected Neuville.

”But unfortunately it wasn’t the perfect result as we could only catch five points to Kalle against him with Estonia and Finland coming. It is better than ending up in a ditch.”

He added: “We are eight points ahead of Ott Tanak and team ahead of Elfyn Evans. The race is on but Kenya needs to be another strong one.”

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