Neuville delivered arguably the best drive of his WRC career to defeat nine-time Monte Carlo winner Sebastien Ogier by 16.1s after emerging victorious from an intense head-to-head battle.
To underline Neuville’s performance the Hyundai driver claimed a perfect victory, scoring the maximum 30 points under the new-for-2024 points scoring system. The Belgian topped the standings at the end of Saturday to scoop 18 points, before winning all three of Sunday’s stages to bag a maximum 12 points (seven for topping the Sunday standings and five for the Power Stage win).
Reflecting on the performance of his driver, Abiteboul believes Neuville sent out a statement to his rivals and has reached a new level as a competitor.
“Yeah I think so,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com when asked if Neuville’s triumph was a statement win.
“He has had wins before and very good results and he has been close to winning championships before.
“I was not there [in the past] so it is difficult for me to comment but speaking about last year there were two wins and more opportunities for wins. It is true that when he was getting close to those opportunities for wins something happened.
“We discussed this and we talked it through and it was an interesting debrief of last year.
“I want to believe that these moments are important in the life of a driver. It is not easy to talk these things through, but we did.
“I hope that maybe what happened this weekend is also because he is a stronger person, stronger driver and stronger competitor than he has ever been. For sure, to me it is certainly the case since I have joined the team.”
Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
When asked for his thoughts on what changes he has witnessed in his driver since last season, Abiteboul added: “I don’t know. It is a confidence in his ability to properly succeed and make no mistake.
“I think it is a combination and there is no silver bullet. He has been talking about how good he has been with the car, and I think that is very true.
“When you are at one with the car, he has been capable of pushing without having any big particular moment, then you can see the limit.
“I think at every point of the rally he stayed within the limit and that is credit to how we build the car with him and around him.”