Thierry Neuville considering retirement as FIA plans to introduce new regulations

Thierry Neuville considering retirement as FIA plans to introduce new regulations

Thierry Neuville has hinted that he may step away from the World Rally Championship at the end of this season, raising concerns over his future.

Thierry Neuville has revealed that he intends to participate in the World Rally Championship for at least two more years and would only ‘probably retire’ next year if Hyundai decided to walk away from the competition.

The Hyundai driver has addressed concerns about his future during an interview with AutoHebdo, indicating that this season might be his last. The champion is in the last year of his contract and has not yet signed an extension.

“This could be my last year in WRC, so I’ll give it my all once again to try and secure it,” said Neuville. “I feel the tool is there, so we’re going to give everything to achieve it, especially if I’m stopping afterward. It’d be great to leave with a title.”

The 35-year-old has been a top-level rally driver for 13 seasons, and has finished as the runner-up in five championships, four of which he has shared with his current squad, Hyundai.

Neuville’s desire to sign a new two-year contract continues to be what he wants, as he previously confirmed to Autosport. Additionally, the 35-year-old made it clear that he could only see himself giving up the championship if Hyundai also decided to exit.

“Yeah for sure I would like to,” he responded when asked about the comments made last year about remaining in the championship for a further two years.

“I never said that I want to retire; I don’t know where that came from. I said that if Hyundai pulls out, I could be retired by next year for example and that is the truth.

“If Hyundai carries on, and they still want me, then I would like to carry on of course.”

This comes after the FIA announced their vision for the WRC’s future, and although Neuville supports the proposals that would improve the event formats and promote the championship, he is adamantly against suggestions to change the Rally1 technical specifications for the next season.

The FIA plans to eliminate hybrid power off the Rally1 cars and further lower their performance by modifying the air restrictor and aerodynamics to make the cars more similar to the Rally2 category. However, the governing body has not yet approved all of the suggested aero changes.

The world motorsport governing body ultimately intends to lay out new Rally1 regulations for 2026 based on the current Rally1 car concept. The cars are projected to have a bigger spaceframe chassis, generate 330 horsepower, and come with a €400,000 price tag.

“To be honest it was a bit of surprise for myself and many others that is for sure,” Neuville added. “I would prefer something stable until the end of 2026, and to use that time period now to plan something nicely for the future of the WRC, whatever it would be I don’t know.

“The question is simple; who is going to join the championship in 2025 and 2026 with the regulations we have now in a transition period that change basically every year? I don’t know.

“Why I ask this question is that if we change the regulation [for 2025], it will bring additional costs to the existing manufacturers who are spending millions and millions for more than 10 years.

“They now have to modify the car and, okay, there is the removal of the hybrid – but what is the cost of a hybrid when you have a budget of nearly hundreds of millions of euros? Removing around 15 hybrid kits, which is roughly two million euros per year, where is the difference?

“So why not keep something stable until 2026 and use this period now to develop something for 2027? Call all the manufacturers and bring them round one table and ask them ‘Who is interested in entering the WRC?’

“Maybe out of 20 you will maybe see seven, and the seven that stay you ask them what they need. The conversation is then about budgets, amount of people, technology, what type of cars you want to promote.

“That is the question and then from there you start, and you find a common sense regulation that works for everybody.

“Creating the promoter group within the FIA, changes to event formats, bringing back remote service to be closer to the public and reducing hospitality costs, these are interesting points because these are changes that make sense.

“If the promotion is great and the return on investment is great nobody cares how much a WRC car costs.”

According to Neuville, it would have been worthwhile if the FIA’s working committee had reached out to him or the other drivers for feedback on the future vision.

“I just find it a bit of a shame that the decisions have gone against what the teams have asked for and the teams were not really considered in the decision, and also the drivers were not either,” he said. “With all the feedback we gave, very little has been heard. I have never ever had any contact with the new FIA working group.

“I’m not a manufacturer, but I am the driver leading the championship and I have been here many years, so maybe also I can give some feedback on what has changed over the years and what changes have had a more negative impact over the years.”

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