Having produced a series of promising performances since the start of the season, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul’s programme now features an additional rally this month.
The Belgian crew will line up for the Brother Rally New Zealand, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in a Citroën DS3 WRC sporting Qatar World Rally Team decals. An exceptional opportunity for Thierry and Nicolas, who are determined to make the most of it!
At the start of the season, they were scheduled to start nine of the first ten rounds of the WRC, but Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul no longer have a gap at the midway point of their season.
In the midst of preparing to take part in this fifth Olympic Games in skeet shooting, Nasser Al-Attiyah offered the Belgian crew the chance to take his place at the Brother Rally New Zealand. The Saint-Vith-born driver, always accompanied by his fellow countryman Nicolas Gilsoul, will therefore be defending the colours of the Qatar World Rally Team on the other side of the world.
This long journey will provide Thierry Neuville, currently lying ninth in the Drivers’ World Championship, with the chance to add to his experience at this very specific and much-loved rally: “Ever since I was a little boy, long before I got behind the wheel of a car, I dreamed about taking part in Rally New Zealand. The scenery, the roads, the banked corners; I love everything about it. I really wanted to take part in the rally and I’d like to thank Nasser Al-Attiyah and Qatar for giving me this opportunity!”
Before setting off for New Zealand, the Belgian driver has already taken a lot of information on board: “I’ve looked at a lot of onboard camera footage from previous years to get a good idea of what to expect over there. That way, I will be well prepared, even though I know that we will be short of experience in terms of driving on the stages when we line up at the start.”
“As far as I can tell – based on the footage I’ve seen – the level of grip and amount of loose gravel is roughly comparable to what we faced in Mexico,” commented Thierry. “But the main thrust of our approach will be to find the right setup quickly for this new surface. With only two runs in free practice before the qualifying stage, it certainly won’t be easy to compete with drivers who have already raced on these roads several times before. But the aim, of course, is to pick up as much experience as possible.”
Having finished in the points at the last three events in Portugal, Argentina and Greece, Thierry Neuville is on the upswing. Despite his good form, the rising star of Belgian rallying remains focussed in his main goal: “We will see how the rally goes. Nicolas and I are not going to change our preparation. We always try to do our very best. The circumstances – by which, most of all, I mean the weather – will also play a major role. I wouldn’t be bothered by rain; that would reduce the problem of sweeping the loose gravel. Our goals will be set in the briefing with the team. Since the start of the season, we have had excellent support from Citroën. I have complete faith in Yves Matton that things will continue in the same way.”
“I’d like to thank Nasser Al-Attiyah and Qatar again for this gift,” added the Belgian driver. “We have talked a lot since the start of the season, and he knew I dreamed about driving in New Zealand. And I know that he dreams about representing his native Qatar in London. We are all behind him and wish him well at the Olympic Games. He’d better prepare properly: the entire Citroën team will be watching his progress from Finland!”