As operations at Hyundai Motorsport continue to ramp up, Nicolas Gilsoul has been back in the co-driver’s seat alongside Thierry Neuville, as the Belgian duo reacquaint themselves with their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

The pair have been taking part in a series of tests in Finland, their first kilometres since Rally México back in March. Although things didn’t quite go to plan last week, they have bounced back quickly to resume testing on the fast Finnish roads.

During the lockdown period, Gilsoul spent time in the Belgian countryside with his family, enjoying a quieter pace of life – as he explains:

You’ve been back in testing after months of lockdown – how has it been getting back in the car?
“It has been great to be back in the co-driver’s seat alongside Thierry. We’ve spent a few days this week getting back into a rhythm and preparing for the events we have over the summer. Unfortunately our test last week was cut short, but the team reacted very quickly to get us back on the road and we’ve had some valuable seat time this week.’

This is the longest you’ve gone without competing, how have you been coping without the rallies?
“I remember at the beginning of my career we would finish the season in October and start again around March or April. I always found that time to be very long, and quite depressing, and I feel a little bit like that now. It’s the first time in at least ten years that I’ve gone so long without doing any rallying. Instead I took some time to rest properly, and enjoyed being at home with my family.”

How has life been in Belgium recently?
“We are able to move more freely now, and I see people out here in the countryside enjoying it like they are on holiday. I feel a lot less stuck. I’m looking forward to getting back to climbing, which is still closed at the moment; it helps me refresh my mind and keep my body in shape.”

How have you been keeping yourself occupied?
“Most of the time when you want to do endurance training, you don’t have half a day to do it, so you’re trying to squeeze three hours of exercise into 45 minutes! During the past few months I’ve been able to spend much of my day cycling. I’ve also been following some High Intensity Interval Training videos on YouTube. I was able to do it outside for the first time a few weeks ago, and with the warm weather and the sunset in the background it was very cool.”

How have you found the change of pace?
“As a co-driver, I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future and checking my watch to see what the time is. I’ve learned to really appreciate and live in the moment, as I’m not in a hurry for anything now. Normally I’m always preparing to react to a situation, but I’ve been able to really switch off that mode and focus on a few personal projects that have been gathering dust for a few years. I treated this time as a gift; I’ve been busy for nearly ten years with the WRC.”

Your daughter Myrtie must also be keeping you active?
“Yes we’ve been able to spend a lot of time together. As we have a garden we are able to go outside and play in the sand pit, or to jump on the trampoline. That’s a lot of fun; there is also a trampoline park nearby, and after five minutes you’re sweating like crazy but you keep pushing to try new things! It’s great to also spend some time doing physical activities that aren’t just about fitness.”

Do you have a message for WRC fans?
“I’ve been seeing on social media that a lot of people are missing the rallies, and posting memories from previous years. It’s nice to have a look back and see just how far we have come. Usually, we don’t have the time to reflect on this. I’m still really motivated and I can see that everyone at Hyundai Motorsport is very committed, and we can’t wait to start competing again soon.”

Nicolas Gilsoul wears a Stilo WRC DES Zero 8860 helmet and Alpinestars race suit and uses a Fastime RW3 co-driver’s rally watch.

Nicolas Gilsoul, Thierry Neuville, Hyundai, Belgium, Stilo, FIA World Rally Championship, motorsport, motor sport, Fastime, Alpinestars, cars, auto, race car, Ypres