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Neuville reliant on teammates for Sweden set-up after illness


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The Belgian is still recovering from flu which prevented him from taking part in the second of two test days on the snow in Finland to prepare for his weekend’s second round of the WRC season.

Neuville was able to conduct one day of testing, but melting conditions didn’t provide an accurate representation for Sweden.

The illness meant team-mate Craig Breen was handed an extra test day, while Esapekka Lappi was offered plenty of mileage thanks to Hyundai’s decision to field its new signing in a round of the Finnish Rally Championship last weekend.

Neuville says he has no major concerns heading into Rally Sweden following the lack of test miles, but admits he will have to rely on the set-up direction and feedback found by Breen and Lappi in testing.

“I had to skip my second day and the first day we had melting conditions so we had a s*** day and we had no second test day,” Neuville told Autosport.

“I will have to rely on my team-mates as they have both given good feedback and had good testing. I’m quite confident that I will quickly adjust to the car. I have no major concerns.”

Neuville emerged as a contender for victory on the snow in Sweden last year before eventually finishing second behind Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera.

Asked about his expectations this weekend, he added: “It will depend on the feeling in the car, usually we have been fast over here in Sweden.

“I don’t expect anything else to be honest but the performance of the car will be crucial again.

“Last year we had better speed than we expected after Monte Carlo and hopefully this year we are up to speed.

“I think this weekend we will see the benefits of the new aerodynamics on the car, so hopefully this helps us. The event is certainly fast enough to make the aero work.”

After completing the recce yesterday Neuville believes the new stages added to the 2023 Sweden schedule are worse than 12 months ago, after drivers criticised the amount of long straights last year.

“It is what we said last year. For me, the new stages are worse than what we had last year,” he said.

“The two new stages we have on Saturday morning are worse. For the rest of the rally Friday’s stage profile is okay, they are a bit more twisty and exciting. Sunday is okay too.

“Saturday, except the last stage of the day, which is okay, is not going to be as fun as you would expect from a snow event.”

Breen has the tools to bounce back on WRC return
Following a difficult season with M-Sport, Breen returns to WRC competition as he embarks upon the first event of his partial campaign with Hyundai.

The Irishman says his key target is to ensure a smile returns to his face after a challenging 2022 that was plagued by a series of crashes and retirements.

Breen’s run of misfortune began in Sweden last year when he ran into a snowbank on the Friday leg.

Now back at Hyundai, where he scored three of his five WRC career best second place finishes, the 33-year-old is confident he can perform.

“I think the most important thing for me is to try and enjoy the car and get back into the groove again as last year was incredibly difficult,” Breen told Autosport.

“I don’t care where I finish as long as I have a smile on my face. It took me until December time when I got back in a historic car to put a smile back on my face last year. That is not the most ideal of circumstances, so I just want to enjoy this.

“I have all the tools to do it now so it is top to myself and [co-driver] James [Fulton] to do the best job we can.”

Reigning world champion Rovanpera topped the times in Thursday’s shakedown pipping Lappi by 0.1s.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta was third fastest ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans, with Breen ending shakedown in fifth ahead of Neuville and M-Sport’s Ott Tanak and Pierre-Louis Loubet.

Source: auto sport

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