It’s musical chairs in the World Rally championship, with the big teams swapping drivers for 2012. It’s been announced that Petter Solberg will join Ford to replace Mikko Hirvonen, who in turn replaced Sebastien Ogier at Citroën. Ogier has gone to VW to join its new Polo WRC team but a new face in the paddock will be 22 year-old-driver Belgian driver Thierry Neuville from Saint-Vith.
He’s widely recognized as one of the rising stars in world rallying and will drive a Citroën DS3 WRC in the 2012 World Championship. The Belgian is slated to enter a minimum of nine events.
Citroën Racing, which is heavily committed to the training and promotion of young drivers, will give Neuville the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level of rallying.
Co-driven by fellow-countryman, Nicolas Gilsoul, Neuville will race in Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, Finland, Germany and Great Britain. Depending on how the season unfolds, the French and Spanish rallies could be added to this program.
Neuville made a name for himself by winning the Belgian Citroën Racing Trophy in 2009. In 2010, he drove a Citroën C2 S1600 in the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC), and also raced in his first IRC rallies at the wheel of a Peugeot 207 S2000. In 2011 he won the Tour of Corsica and San Remo rallies and was in contention for the IRC title up to the final event.
Olivier Quesnel, Citroën Racing Team Principal, commented: “Citroën Racing has been keeping a close eye on Thierry Neuville’s career for several years. We felt the time had come to give him a chance at the top level. Like Sébastien Loeb, and more recently Sébastien Ogier, Thierry will find himself in a team that will help him complete his training and consolidate it with results. It’s up to Thierry and Nicolas to seize this opportunity!”
Thierry Neuville said: “Ever since the moment I had the opportunity to drive the Citroën DS3 WRC in testing, I’ve dreamed of racing it. It’ll be the case in the Monte Carlo Rally, and I have to admit I still have difficulty believing it!
“The 2011 season was very positive with two victories in two legendary rallies, the Tour of Corsica and the San Remo. I had to move up another step on the ladder and I’m very proud Citroën Racing has put its trust in me for 2012. I’ll do everything in my power to repay their confidence.”