Thierry Neuville is a Belgian rally driver, who debuted in the World Rally Championship in 2009 and scored two WRC wins until June 2016. Neuville was one of only two Belgian drivers who won WRC events (the other is Francois Duval), so he can be declared as the best Belgian rally driver ever. In the world championship standings, his best result was second place in the 2013 season.
Rally debut in 2007, WRC debut in 2009
Thierry Neuville, who was born on June 16, 1988, started rallying in 2007. He entered some national rally events driving Opel Corsa GSi, scoring the podium in his debut at Rallye Luxembourg. His co-driver was Achim Maraite. In 2008, Thierry switched to Ford Fiesta ST and competed in the Belgium championship and Fiesta Sport Trophy. He also tried Citroen C2 R2 at ADAC Rallye Oberehe in Germany.
Citroen C2 R2 Max was Thierry's car for much of the 2009 season, in which he debuted in the World Rally Championship, in October at Rally Catalunya. It was his first rally alongside new navigator Nicolas Klinger. They retired due to technical issues.
Double programme in the 2010 season: IRC and Junior WRC
Neuville also debuted in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), driving Peugeot 207 S2000 for BFGoodrich Team at Ypres Rally. He retired after an accident. For the rest of the season, Neuville competed in the various French, Belgian, German and Swiss rally events, but without any notable result.
In 2010, Neuville had a double programme, driving the Peugeot 207 S2000 in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and Citroen C2 S1600 in the Junior World Rally Championship. In both competitions, his co-driver was Nicolas Klinger. Neuville also drove some other cars, such were Ford Escort MkII at Legend Boucles de Spa or Citroen C2 R2 and Citroen DS3 R3T at some events across the Europe.
Maiden Junior WRC victory at Rally Bulgaria
In five races of the Junior WRC competition, Neuville scored one victory and one third-place finish, to classify seventh at the end of the season. His first world rally victory was achieved at Rally Bulgaria in July. In October 2010, Neuville finished third in the JWRC category at Rallye de France-Alsace. In the IRC competition, Neuville participated in six events, driving for Peugeot Team Bel-Lux. His best result was third place at Belgian Ypres Rally and he finished ninth in the points.
Full season in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge
In 2011, Thierry concentrated on the full season in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, still in Peugeot 207 S2000 of Peugeot Team Bel-Lux. His new co-driver was Nicolas Gilsoul. In ten IRC events, including his debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo, Neuville scored two wins and two more podiums, to finish fifth in the final standings. He was the winner of Tour de Corse and Rallye Sanremo.
First full WRC season for Neuville in 2012
The milestone season in Neuville's career followed in 2012. Citroën signed him to drive eleven races in Citroën DS3 WRC for the Citroën Junior Team. He participated in two events driving the same car for the Qatar World Rally Team. Neuville was six times among points scorers, with fourth place at Rallye de France-Alsace as his best result. He was fifth at Rally Argentina and Rally New Zealand, sixth at Acropolis Rally, seventh at Wales Rally GB and eighth at Rally de Portugal. With 53 points in his pocket, Thierry finished seventh in the championship standing.
No victories, but he was second in the world
In 2013, Neuville signed for Qatar World Rally Team, which switched from Citroen to Ford Fiesta RS WRC. At Rallye Monte-Carlo, Neuville retired the third year in a row, crashing out in the early phase. At Rally Sweden, Neuville showed good performance on the snow to finish fifth.
Maiden WRC podium followed in March 2013, at Rally Guanajuato Mexico. In a mid-season, from May to September, Neuville clinched five consecutive podiums, becoming the biggest surprise of the championship. He was third at Acropolis Rally and second in Italy, Finland, Germany and Australia. He added one more third-place finish at the last race of the season, the Wales Rally GB. In 13 events, Neuville retired only once and scored seven podiums, to finish second in the championship classification, behind Sebastien Ogier.
Thierry Neuville joined Hyundai in 2014
Hyundai returned to the World Rally Championship in 2014 with the i20 WRC car. Neuville was chosen as one of the drivers for the full season program, together with his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul. The season started with one more retirement at Rallye Monte-Carlo, the fourth in four years. After the disappointing 28th place at Rally Sweden, Neuville scored the maiden WRC podium for the new Hyundai team in Mexico, finishing third behind two Volkswagens. Neuville took one more podium in June at Rally Poland, and then the historic ADAC Rallye Deutschland came.
Maiden WRC victory for Hyundai and Thierry
It was a historic event for Hyundai, and of course for Neuville, as he scored a maiden WRC victory both for the team and himself. The German WRC event started with a spectacular Neuville's crash on the shakedown stage. He rolled his #7 Hyundai i20 into the vineyards and he thought the event was over for him. But, the mechanics repaired the car and Neuville thanked them with a victory. In fact, it was a 1-2 victory for Hyundai, as Neuville's teammate Dani Sordo finished in the second place.
Thierry finally finished the Rallye Monte Carlo
With one victory and two podiums, Neuville was sixth in the points at the end of the 2014 season. As he had a multi-year contract, Neuville remained with Hyundai Motorsport in the 2015 WRC season. In January 2015, he finally reached the finish at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, for the first time in five attempts.
At the 2015 Rally Sweden, Neuville was second, just 6.4 seconds behind Ogier. One more podium followed at Rally Italia Sardegna where he finished third, behind Ogier and teammate Hayden Paddon. Although he was regularly in the points, except accidents in Argentina and Portugal, Neuville was moved to the Hyundai's second team for the last race of the season, Wales Rally GB. He crashed at that event, but still he finished ahead of his teammates Sordo and Paddon in the championship standings. Neuville was sixth, Sordo eighth and Paddon ninth.
Neuville's second WRC victory at Sardinia
For the 2016 season, all three drivers remained with Hyundai, getting the new generation of i20 WRC car. The management decided that drivers would exchange their positions during the seasons in the main team and reserve team. Neuville started the season with third place at Rallye Monte-Carlo, his best ever finish at the world's famous rally event.
After four events with Hyundai's main team in the #3 car, Neuville moved to the second team for Rally Portugal in May. He embarrassed himself by retiring because he was out of fuel. On the next race, at Rally Italia Sardegna in June, again driving the #20 car for the Hyundai's second team, Neuville showed perfect performance on the gravel roads of Sardinia and took the win ahead of Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala.