Hyundai Motorsport's Team Principal says the retirement of Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe to suspension failure whilst leading Acropolis Rally Greece is “a bitter feeling” for the entire team.
Neuville had carved open a slender 10.9-second lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing's Sebastien Ogier before he hit trouble 11.1 kilometres into Saturday's antepenultimate special stage, ‘Pavliani'.
The Belgian was immediately stopped in his tracks when his i20 N Rally1 car clattered into a deep hole, with the energy generated by the impact shattering the right-hand-side of the suspension.
He has hinted the impact was the final straw for the components due to the fact these were routinely subjected to an ‘accumulation of vibrations and shocks' due to the stages' rough nature.
Although Neuville is set to rejoin on Sunday and make maximum points on the end-of-rally Power Stage the priority, his retirement means his hopes of winning the WRC title are now in jeopardy.
Neuville's boss Cyril Abiteboul struggled to hide his frustration in his post-Saturday comments.
“We know Greece is a test and today once again demonstrated that is a well-deserved reputation,” he said.
“It is a very bitter feeling for everyone that Thierry and Martijn had to retire on Saturday.
“It was very clear that they were in a commanding position, and our chances to win this rally were genuine.
“We feel sorry for them but also for the work that went into the preparation of the rally, as we wanted to defend our win from last year.
“Unfortunately, fate decided otherwise,” he added.
“We are yet to understand exactly what happened, but we hope to repair the car for tomorrow.”
The demise of Neuville handed the rally lead to Ogier but, incredibly, the eight-time world champion had to park up his GR Yaris Rally1 with a similar issue.
He kissed a rock on the last test and broke the rear-left side of the car's suspension, promoting team-mate Kalle Rovanpera into first place.
22-year-old Rovanpera is over two minutes clear of the i20 N Rally1 of Dani Sordo and if he can hold station, the Finn will take a massive step towards making it back-to-back World titles.