Thierry Neuville may have dominated this past weekend’s Rally Sweden, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Belgian en route to victory. Co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had a particularly anxious moment while in the middle of his delivery of pace notes as the Hyundai duo negotiated the dramatic “Colin’s Crest” jump, named in honor of the late rally legend Colin McRae, on Saturday. “Off to change my undies now…” Gilsoul tweeted Saturday evening.
“I know in advance I have three notes to tell Thierry,” Gilsoul related at rally’s end when recounting the moment. “According to the timing of the first two, I have to say these before the jump and then I have one to read when we start to jump. When I read this note, I looked up and I couldn’t believe my eyes – we were completely on my side. I didn’t expect that. For one second I was surprised, one second after it was OK.”
It was more than OK for Neuville, whose win propelled him in the World Rally Championship lead. He admitted his confidence soared despite the rally’s typically challenging icy conditions.
“The confidence was high, of course. The car worked well and the team supported us like they do for a long time,” he said.. “I was sure we could hope for a good result, but the win was tough. The first day with the conditions and the snow made it difficult for the first cars on the road. In fifth I was able to push hard and make a difference – especially in the long one where I really pushed. From there the game was on to push very hard. I was in a tough fight with the guys on my left and right.”
“It is something special and something we are not so much used to yet,” Neuville added of his 10-point lead over the reigning world champion, M-Sport Ford’s Sebastien Ogier. “We were second most of the time last year – but being the leader is different. Mexico will be a tough event – that’s the game and these are the rules. I am really looking forward to it even if I know a podium will be difficult. If I get away from Mexico in the lead of the championship, then Corsica will be special!”
One other note on Colin’s Crest: Since 2009, Rally Sweden organizers have presented a “Colin’s Crest Award” to the driver who jumps furthest from the huge crest close to the end of the Vargasen stage. Mads Ostberg won the award in 2017 with a jump of 42 meters [138ft] in a Ford Fiesta WRC, and he matched that distance this year at the wheel of a Citroen C3 to claim the honor for a second time.