Hyundai Motorsport aims to reassert its FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) credentials when the 2018 season gets underway at the opening event in Monte-Carlo later this month (25-28 January). On the back of its most successful campaign in WRC to date in 2017, the team has raised the bar even further for its fifth season, with its sights set on a renewed challenge for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.
Hyundai Motorsport played an integral part in last year’s WRC, taking four victories and finishing a close second in both titles. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC proved itself to be a versatile contender, triumphing on gravel and tarmac, but the team was left ruing missed opportunities.
WRC’s sporting and technical regulations will remain largely unchanged for the coming season offering continuity to teams and crews as they prepare for another closely fought battle.
For Hyundai Motorsport, the rally winning Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has been updated for the coming season in pursuit of a competitive edge. 2017 resulted in an intense and thrilling battle across all participating manufacturers in WRC, with the forthcoming season promising to reignite close rivalries between Hyundai, Ford, Toyota and Citroën.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We head into our fifth season in the WRC in high spirits and with even stronger ambitions to fight for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. We came close in 2017 but we also recognise where we fell short in terms of our performance and consistency. We aim to rectify that this season. There are no revolutionary changes to the regulations this year so all teams will be building on last year’s foundations. We are very respectful of our rivals. Their performances only serve to make us try to improve ourselves from one event to the next. This is what drives us forward, as we work towards our ultimate championship goals.”
Competing under the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team banner in 2018, the team will field three of its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars in each of the 13 rallies on the calendar. Four crews will contribute to the team’s championship efforts: Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall.
Mikkelsen and Neuville will contest all rounds in the #4 and #5 cars respectively, while Sordo and Paddon will share the #6 car, each competing in selected rounds. Neuville was unquestionably one of the stars of last season, taking the most victories and stage wins of any WRC driver. The Belgian finished second only to Sébastien Ogier in the overall standings, for the second year running, and now has his eyes on a bigger prize in 2018.
Neuville said: “We might not have achieved the championship titles last season, but there was plenty to celebrate. We wanted to be in the fight and we definitely achieved that in many rallies. Taking four wins and being competitive in many other events gives us a real motivation to go one better in 2018. As a team, we have kept getting stronger and stronger with each season. Entering our fifth year, I feel that it’s our time to shine but we know our rivals will be tough to beat. If anything, that gives us even more determination. We have a good car in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, and the team has worked hard over the winter to further improve its performance potential. Our team spirit is very high so we have to harness that and perform at our best, consistently.”
Mikkelsen joined Hyundai Motorsport for the final three rounds of 2017, making an immediately positive impression. Leading Rally de España at the end of the opening day, heads turned at the Norwegian’s swift adaptation to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. A near podium in Wales Rally GB reinforced his potential ahead of a full season campaign in 2018.
Mikkelsen commented: “This is the moment I have been waiting for: the start of full championship campaign with Hyundai Motorsport! The final three rounds of last season were very useful for Anders and myself to get acquainted with the team and with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It was time well spent because I feel we are now ready to attack with confidence. The car proved to be quick on a variety of surfaces and that will hopefully serve us well this season. That’s not to say we are taking anything for granted! WRC is in great shape with lots of strong manufacturers and crews ready for battle. What happens when the gloves come off is anyone’s guess, so we have to be prepared.”
Sordo, who has been part of the Hyundai Motorsport team since 2014, scored two podiums last year, in Corsica and Portugal. The Spaniard will continue to be a trusted pair of hands for the team’s championship challenge at selected events in 2018, starting with Rallye Monte-Carlo, alongside new co-driver Carlos del Barrio.
Sordo said: “Although I am not taking part in the complete WRC season, I feel very loyal to my Hyundai Motorsport family and will do everything I can to support our push for the manufacturers’ title. We showed last year that when everything works well together as a unit, we could achieve really positive results. I have seen how much the team has grown since our first season back in 2014; the progress has been incredible. This year, I am 100 per cent committed to giving everything I have in the rallies I join, starting with Monte-Carlo.”
A difficult 2017 season for Paddon ended on a positive note with a podium result at Rally Australia. It was his second top-three finish of the year after finishing second in Rally Poland. The New Zealander will share the #6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC this season, with his first event scheduled for Rally Sweden.
Paddon commented: “I am treating the 2018 season almost like a fresh start after our difficulties from last year. I want to put that behind me and use the positives from our podium results to spur us on to achieve what I know we are capable of. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer to contest the full season but I have to accept things like this and make the most of each opportunity we get throughout the year. Of course we will do everything in our power to help the team towards the manufacturers’ title and we will be out to fight for podiums on each gravel event. 2018 is a reset to get back to our best and I cannot wait to get back in the car for our first event of the season at Sweden.”
The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship will be formally launched on Thursday, 11 January at a special event at the Autosport International show in Birmingham, UK. All WRC teams and crews will be present to show off their 2018 challengers. The season itself will get underway later in January with Rallye Monte-Carlo. The only significant change to the calendar for this season is the addition of Rally Turkey in September, which replaces to outgoing Rally Poland to maintain a 13-event schedule.
Thierry Neuville has survived chaotic last-minute conditions to record his first Kennards Hire Rally Australia victory. Neuville had an early scare as torrential rain made the morning stages almost undriveable but he was able to pull clear when it counted to supply Hyundai with a perfect end to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship season.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s pursuit of Neuville from second place ended dramatically when his Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris crashed into trees after sliding wide on a fast left-hand corner on the 20th and final stage in the Wedding Bells State forest. The uninjured but distraught Finn retired on the spot, elevating M-Sport driver Ott Tanak to second place in a Ford Fiesta and a surprised New Zealander Hayden Paddon to third in another Hyundai.
Five-times World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport) won the points-paying Power Stage that closed the rally and the season and finished fourth after a weekend beset with problems.
The 29-year-old Neuville recorded his fourth victory of the season, double Ogier’s score in achieving his fifth straight drivers’ world championship last month. He also hoisted his 54th special stage win of the 2017 season in the first run through Wedding Bells this morning, astonishingly also more than double Ogier‘s score.
Neuville had started the day more than 20sec ahead of Latvala but saw this halved after rain - described by Citroen driver Kris Meeke as “horrendous” – dumped on the second test, Bucca. The conditions affected other parts of the course and organisers cancelled the penultimate stage, Pilbara Reverse, leaving Latvala with too little time and distance to continue his charge.
In a post-event press conference, Neuville said the season’s achievements made he and the Hyundai Motorsport team feel like World Champions, even though they missed the title because of early mistakes and problems.
“This one is a special one and really goes to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport,” he said, admitting Latvala had been close enough today to challenge for the win. “We are not World Champions, but we drove like World Champions. Every morning when you see Jari-Matti doing his push-ups you know that he’s going for a big attack.
“He did it this morning and he will not give up and try until the very end. There was a real opportunity for him to get the first place, so we had to resist in a clever way but not taking too much risk in the tricky conditions.”
While Latvala’s run finished bitterly, Tanak completed his M-Sport tenure with a solid performance before switching to the Tommi Makinen-run Toyota outfit in 2018.
“It’s important to finish the season like this. It was quite difficult to think about this (finishing second) on Friday as I was not comfortable in the car,” Tanak said. Paddon managed to take some positives away from his most difficult season in rallying. “On speed alone we didn’t deserve a podium this weekend,” the New Zealander said.
“When the rain came we knew it would be very, very tricky. We had a bit of an idea of what to expect and took it nice and easy to look after our position. So it was a nice way to finish what was a pretty trying year.”
Rally Great Britain winner Elfyn Evans was fifth ahead of Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi. Kris Meeke, who re-entered under Rally 2 rules after suffering a broken suspension yesterday, was seventh.
Australians Richie Dalton (Skoda), Nathan Quinn (Mitsubishi) and Dean Herridge (Subaru) completed the top 10 in a field of 78 starters. Quinn won the CAMS Australian Rally Championship, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 called “Shirley”, so named he says because the car has had more hits in its 10-year competition career than the famous singer Shirley Bassey.
Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth FIA Formula One World Drivers’ Championship title with a ninth-placed finish in a Mexican Grand Prix won by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Mercedes driver Hamilton had to battle from the back of the field after an opening lap collision with title rival Sebastian Vettel dropped both men to the back of the field. Vettel, whose slim title chances rested on securing victory at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, managed to claw his way back to fourth place. However, with Hamilton slowly progressing to ninth place and too big a gap to overhaul to the drivers ahead, the Ferrari driver's hopes ended after Verstappen, second-placed Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and third-placed Kimi Räikkönen crossed the line.
When the lights went out at the start, Vettel was pressured by Verstappen off the line and at the end of the long run to Turn 1 the Red Bull driver drew alongside the Ferrari driver and muscled his way past in Turn 2 to take the lead. There was minor contact between them as they went through, with Vettel losing part of his front wing. More damage was to come for the German, however, as Hamilton went around the outside to steal second.
In Turn 3 the left side of Vettel’s front wing collided with the rear right of Hamilton’s car. The result was a puncture for the Mercedes man and substantial front wing damage for Vettel. Both limped to the pits for repairs and rejoined at the back of the field.
At the front, Verstappen began to build a lead and by lap 14 he found himself 5.5 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas who had inherited second after the Vettel/Hamilton incident. Esteban Ocon was third, the Force India driver having bypassed Kimi Räikkönen in the opening lap.
Carlos Sainz was the first to make a scheduled stop, the Renault driver pitting on lap two to take on soft tyres, with which he’d try to reach the flag. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was the next into the pit lane on lap five, but for the Australian it was a complete stop. After taking a grid drop in the morning for an engine change, Ricciardo rose from his P16 starting position to P7. But his race was then ended by a suspected turbo failure.
At the back, Vettel was marching through the order and by lap 25 he was up to 11th place behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Hamilton, though, was struggling, and after being lapped by race leader Verstappen the Briton complained that he couldn't get near Sainz up ahead in P18.
Hulkenberg was the next to exit the race. On lap 25 the German being told to stop the car, as it was unsafe. With a suspected ERS issue, Hulkenberg was told to exit down the nosecone and jump off.
On lap 32 Brendon Hartley pulled over at the side of the track with flames licking at the engine cover of his Toro Rosso. The halt, close to the side of the track, resulted in the Virtual Safety Car being deployed and that resulted in a flurry of pit stops, with Verstappen diving in from the lead to take on supersofts.
Behind him Räikkönen profited most, the Finn leapfrogging Ocon to claim third place. Behind them William’s Lance Stroll was now firth ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen’s hold on the place would be shortlived. Vettel had taken on ultrasoft tyres during his pit stop and he soon began setting fastest laps. He quickly reeled in the Dane and passed him with ease to claim seventh place.
There were however, 16 seconds to make up to the next target, Perez. Vettel closed quickly, to 7.5s by lap 45 but with the German needing second place to keep his championship hopes alive if Hamilton finished outside the points, and with almost 54 seconds to make up to second-placed Bottas it looked like the German’s title challenge was done.
Hamilton, though, was making his own steady progress and on lap 46 he passed Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson for 12th place and began to close the 7.1-second gap to Vandoorne. On lap 50, Vettel lunged down the inside into Turn 4 to pass Perez and looked to close the 3.3s gap to Lance Stroll and on lap 54 he eased dismissed the Canadian to take fifth place. Hamilton, meanwhile, had passed Vandoorne under DRS into Turn One to claim P11 and his team were advising him that at the pace he was going he was forecast to finish in P8.
Hamilton began to make that forecast come true by powering past Williams’ Felipe Massa on lap 57 to claim 10th place and a points finish. Up ahead Vettel passed Ocon to grab fourth but with 24 seconds to make up to get to third placed Räikkönen and a further 26 second gap to close to Bottas the German was fighting a losing battle. Told of the gaps he sighed “oh, mamma mia.”
Sainz, meanwhile, retired from the race, meaning that four of the six Renault-powered cars in the race had exited by lap 62. Just leader Verstappen and 13th-placed Gasly remained.
At the front the Dutch driver was in complete command, however, and not experiencing any mechanical concerns. With an 18s gap to Bottas it might have been expected that he would throttle back and control matters but Verstappen wanted more and on lap 64 he set a race record for the circuit with a lap of 1:18.892 and then widened the gap to over 20 seconds by the chequered flag.
Behind him Bottas held second ahead of Räikkönen, while Vettel’s brave charge ended in fourth place. Esteban Ocon scored his second fifth-placed finish of the year, while Lance Stroll delivered a good result for Williams with sixth place. Sergio Pérez was seventh in front his home crowd ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, while Lewis Hamilton finished ninth, enough to earn the Briton his fourth drivers’ title. The final point on offer went to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Race
- Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 1:36'26.550
- Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 19.678
- Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 54.007
- Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 70.078
- Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1 lap
- Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1 lap
- Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1 lap
- Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1 lap
- Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1 lap
- Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1 lap
- Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1 lap
- Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1 lap
- Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap
- Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
- Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 2 laps
Carlos Sainz Renault Renault
Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Renault
Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier will contest Kennards Hire Rally Australia next month as the 2017 World Rally Champion after clinching his fifth consecutive title on the penultimate round in Wales on Sunday October 29. Dayinsure Wales Rally GB was won by Ogier’s M-Sport teammate Elfyn Evans, with Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville 37.3 seconds behind.
A further 7.9 sec back, Ogier took third place and enough points to put his championship beyond challenge before the series finale on the NSW Coffs Coast on 16-19 November. With a third M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Ott Tänak finishing sixth, the British privateer team capped an historic weekend by taking the WRC manufacturers’ championship for the first time in 10 years.
Evans not only took his first WRC victory – and on Welsh home soil – but dominated the four-day rally. He set fastest times on nine of the 21 stages and, despite the challenges of rain, fog and muddy roads, held on to the overall lead from the first speed test on Friday 27 October. He became the seventh different winner and the third first-time winner, alongside Tänak and Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi, in what has been the most competitive WRC season in decades. Co-driven by Daniel Barritt, Evans was the first British driver to win the home round since 2000.
Rally Australia Chairman Ben Rainsford congratulated the winners and said the result guaranteed fans next month would see the world’s best drivers in action.
“Malcolm Wilson and the M-Sport team pulled off an extraordinary achievement at Wales Rally GB. The manufacturers’ championship, drivers’ championship, co-drivers’ championship (for Ogier’s co-driver Julien Ingrassia) and a home-round win in one weekend is amazing,” Rainsford said. “It will be a thrill to see the new world champions in action at Rally Australia, but there will also be unfinished business on the Coffs Coast. There’s still a battle for second in the WRC to be settled between Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak and of course we’ll host the Australian Rally Championship decider between Molly Taylor and Nathan Quinn.
“I predict the gloves will now be off at Rally Australia. With the new faster louder and wilder-looking WRC cars making their first appearance Down Under, we’re going to host a cracking climax to the 2017 season.”
Ogier was emotional after claiming a hard-fought championship, during which he has won only two of the 12 rounds so far but finished on the podium a further seven times.
“I don't know what to say. It’s just incredible. Thank you so much to the whole M-Sport team and Malcolm. It was a hard job. We work all very hard. It’s amazing to be World Champion with this team,” he said through tears. “I had very, very strong emotions on the finish line. I’m very happy for Elfyn. It’s amazing for M-Sport – victory, two guys on the podium, the manufacturers’ championship, drivers’ world championship – everything!”
Evans added: “It's been a good rally. I'm incredibly grateful to everybody that has stood by me through all these years – to get to this point has taken a lot. To all the people who have supported me and backed me – this is for you. And this result only makes us even hungrier for more.”
WRC teams will now have barely a week to return to their bases and prepare their cars before they are air-freighted to Australia. Organisers are planning a big welcome for the international and Australian teams entered, with a free Rally Show and Ceremonial Start expected to attract thousands of fans to the closed main street of Coffs Harbour on Thursday 16 November. The competitors’ service park at C.ex International Stadium will be a hub of rally activity and free entertainment, including driver appearances, music concerts, fireworks, student visits, souvenir sales and a $5000 cash giveaway, throughout the weekend.
Tickets are on sale at www.ticketek.com.au, with a 2-for-1 offer on a $99 all-stages passes available until Tuesday October 31.
Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (round 12 of 13):
1) Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h57m00.6s
2) Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +37.3
3) Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrasia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.2
4) Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +49.8
5) Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +50.3
6) Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:02.3
7) Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 1:20.5
8) Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe) +2:16.3
9) Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:46.5
10) Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i0 Coupe WRC) +3:50.5
Hyundai Motorsport has seen its hopes of fighting for the FIA World Rally Championship Manufacturers’ title completely eradicated after another hugely disappointing result in Rally de España.
Following a double retirement for Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen on Saturday afternoon, it was Thierry Neuville who suffered misfortune on the final morning. The Belgian was forced to stop at the end of SS16 (Santa Marina) after sustaining damage to the front right of his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC after cutting a corner.
It was a bitter blow for the team in both championships, as the non-score drops Neuville to third place in the drivers’ standings behind M-Sport duo Sébastien Ogier and Ott Tanak.
Sordo and Mikkelsen both re-joined under Rally 2 regulations on Sunday morning but were classified down the order. The result means that Hyundai Motorsport has 275 points in the Manufacturers’ Championship, an 83-point deficit to M-Sport with two rounds remaining and 86 points up for grabs.
Sunday morning saw crews tackle six stages – a repeat loop of the 6.28km L’Albiol, 16.35km Riudecanyes and 14.50km Santa Marina tests – with no mid-leg service. The second run through Santa Marina acted as the rally’s Power Stage with drivers vying for extra points. Home hero Sordo showcased what might have been this weekend with a determined Power Stage victory, securing himself five consolatory points.
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí had enjoyed exceptional pace at times during their home rally, setting several top-two stage times on gravel and tarmac, as well as the Power Stage win. It was just one misjudged corner on Saturday afternoon that derailed their podium challenge this weekend.
Sordo said: “There are plenty of positive things to take away from this weekend, especially the Power Stage win, which was a nice consolation. For me, the car has been handling really nicely. Sure, there are some things we can still improve but I have felt comfortable and the stage times have been generally good. There has been just one negative thing – but unfortunately it was a really big one! I am really sorry for the team, the spectators and of course for myself that such a stupid error has cost us heavily this weekend. We will come back from this more strongly, I am sure. These things can happen in rallying.”
Crew Notes: Mikkelsen / Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jæger have certainly turned heads in their first weekend as a Hyundai Motorsport crew. Setting the standard on Friday’s gravel stages, the Norwegian duo experienced a steeper learning curve when they moved onto tarmac. Even a broken windscreen on Sunday morning didn’t prevent them from seeing the positive progress they have made in Spain.
Mikkelsen said: “It has been an eventful weekend for us but one that has generated a lot of positives. Our gravel pace on Friday was good, and it was a nice feeling to lead in our first event with Hyundai Motorsport. We need some more time in the car on tarmac to get the best feeling but we’ve made important progress over the past two days. We couldn’t really find the confidence to push today. We had to drive SS15 with the bonnet open after we didn’t secure it properly after removing the light pods following the dark early morning stage, and that also cracked the windscreen. Even so, we have been able to try some new things and to find a good direction for the future. It is very useful to have these three events to get as prepared as we can for next season.”
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
For Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, any hopes of a podium charge were hampered on Saturday morning following a hydraulics issue. However, the Belgians were still targeting a top-five finish when disaster struck on SS16. Suffering front-right damage after taking a slow corner too tightly, and with no service, the crew was forced to retire, severely denting their Championship aspirations.
Neuville said: “We are obviously hugely disappointed, but at the same time this sort of bad luck is part of the game in the World Rally Championship. After our problems on Saturday, we were pushing hard this morning to make up time. Unfortunately, I turned a bit too tightly in a slow corner in SS16 and hit something that damaged the wheel, and caused the front suspension to break. That was it, game over. Of course, this result makes things much more difficult in the Drivers’ Championship, but we have to keep both feet on the ground. We have had a fantastic season on the whole. The team has put in a great effort to give me a fast car. This just hasn’t been our weekend. Now we want to finish the season with some good results in GB and Australia.”
Small glimmer of hope
Hyundai Motorsport is determined to learn from its frustrating Spanish rally. The team will regroup back at its factory in Alzenau to make improvements for the two remaining rounds of the championship – and for 2018.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “This has been a difficult weekend for the whole team, and certainly not an acceptable one. We asked the drivers to give everything this weekend, which they have done. There have been some positives in amongst the disappointment. Dani has been on the pace, as expected in his home event, and has been generally happy with the handling of his car. His performance in the Power Stage really showed his true potential here. However, we have seen we have to improve on tarmac so we will continue to work on this area for the future. There is still a small glimmer of hope for Thierry in the Drivers’ Championship, but we have to accept that the Manufacturers’ title is all but over for us now.”
The FIA World Rally Championship now moves to the gravel challenges of Wales Rally GB, the penultimate round of the season, which takes place 26-29 October. Hyundai Motorsport will contest the event with a four-car entry. Neuville, Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon will be joined by Sordo.
Final Overall Classification - Rally de España
|1||K. Meeke||P. Nagle||Citroën C3 WRC||3:01:21.1|
|2||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||+28.0|
|3||O. Tänak||M. Järveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||+33.0|
|4||J. Hänninen||K. Lindström||Toyota Yaris WRC||+54.1|
|5||M. Østberg||T. Eriksen||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:26.2|
Scottish husband and wife team Chris and Julie Ramsey, aka Plug In Adventures, crossed the Mongol Rally finish line in Ulan-Ude on Saturday to become the first entrants to complete the epic trans-continental challenge in an all-electric vehicle – a modified 2016 Nissan LEAF dubbed the AT-EV (All-Terrain Electric Vehicle).
Chris and Julie left the rally start line at Goodwood Motor Circuit in the UK on July 16 and travelled 8,000 miles through 13 countries, charging their car 111 times for less than £100 in electricity costs to reach the Siberian finish line, just north of the border with Mongolia.
Their Nissan LEAF will now join other Mongol Rally entrants’ vehicles on a cargo train back across the continent to Estonia, where Chris and Julie will continue the drive back to their hometown of Aberdeen. In total the pair will clock up more than 10,500 miles during the trip.
“There were a number of detractors who told me an electric car isn’t capable of long distance journeys,” said Chris Ramsey. “After thousands of miles and almost zero problems, I can tell you that is not the case. This has been the absolute trip of a lifetime, and I can’t believe we’re now at the finishing line. We’ve travelled through countless countries using just battery power and zero emissions. I’m elated, ecstatic, a bit exhausted, but also completely electrified!”
Throughout Europe, Chris and Julie had the use of an extensive rapid charger network that can provide an 80 per cent battery charge in just 30 minutes. However, once they got into Bulgaria and beyond, they faced a dwindling number of rapid charge options and instead turned to a variety of alternatives for electric power.
These included bars, cafes, hotels, hostels, a barbershop, a post office, garages, car dealerships, a tractor showroom, a police station, and three fire stations in Russia. They even had a trained electrician plug their LEAF directly into an electricity pylon in the middle of the woods in Siberia.
Chris and Julie enjoyed the goodwill of people in every country they travelled through, only paying for electricity at a handful of charges. Rarely did anyone turn down the team’s request to plug in their car, and on top of that they were frequently offered drinks, food and even accommodation for the night.
“We’ve been shown some of the best hospitality we could have hoped for,” said Chris Ramsey. It’s certainly changed our perspective of how we should behave when we get home. One example that sticks out was when we turned up at a Nissan dealer in Russia at 2am. There was a chap waiting for us and he plugged our car in securely in the workshop, then led us into the showroom where he gave us tea, food and comfy sofas to sleep on.”
The Nissan LEAF also proved a trusty companion. Chris said: “In terms of vehicle reliability, the car’s been brilliant. We’ve had one puncture, one damaged alloy wheel, a mud flap came off and someone stole one of our stickers. That’s it!”
On the challenges that faced the pair, Chris said: “There were of course a couple of low points. Illness hit us in the later stages of the journey which was hard, but other than that, it’s been fine. Some of the longer charge times at petrol stations in the middle of nowhere left us feeling a bit low, but then when you pull into a small town or village and you’re greeted warmly by the locals – it just lifts you up and it’s such a thrill.”
During the journey, the Plug In Adventures team was keen to promote the benefits of running an all-electric vehicle, and they found interest in the car and their journey in all the countries they visited. Chris was even invited to take part in a series of panel discussions at the Astana International Exposition, bringing the 2017 theme, “Future Energy,” to life. The LEAF AT-EV was also put on display at the expo.
The team also tackled some of Europe and Asia’s amazing roads, including the Transfăgărășan Highway in Romania – a winding mountain pass that provided a healthy amount of regenerative braking in the car’s B-mode. The longest stretch the couple did on a single charge with their fully loaded vehicle was 115 miles, pulling in to charge with 6 per cent capacity left.
On average Chris and Julie were logging 95 miles between charges, keeping enough spare battery power once they got to the charging locations in case they needed to find an alternate energy source.
Julie Ramsey said: “This has been a trip of a lifetime. We’ve eaten unusual foods, slept in weird locations and even travelled on a cargo ship. We’ve met the most amazing people and been overwhelmed by both the generosity and the interest in our electric adventure. I’d say this trip probably isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly been challenging at times. However, the experiences we’ve had and the people we’ve met along the way have been priceless. I think we’d do it all over again in an instant!”
Countries travelled through:
1. Scotland (leaving their Aberdeen home)
2. England (departing from Goodwood Circuit Mongol Rally start on 16 July)
14. Russia (Ulan-Ude finishing line on 9 September)
Proposed return journey (late September to early October):
Miles travelled (as of 9 Sept)
8,000 miles (including Aberdeen to Goodwood Motor Circuit)
- 111 vehicle charges
- 26 were ‘rapid’ (80 per cent charge in 30 minutes)
- 15 were ‘fast’ (Mennekes Type 2 for a 4 to 5 hour charge)
- The rest using domestic plug sockets (12-14 hour charge)
- Total cost of electricity to charge the LEAF AT-EV: Less than £100 estimated
Hyundai Motorsport heads into the six-week break with clear intentions to refocus on its championship campaign after a tough weekend in Rallye Deutschland, the tenth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Despite being a home rally for the Alzenau-based squad, and a happy hunting ground for results in the past three seasons, none of the team’s three crews have had cause for celebration this weekend.
Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall were the highest placed Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team pair, down in eighth place. Dani Sordo and Marc Martí were put out of contention early on Friday morning after rolling down a bank, and forced to start again under Rally 2 on Saturday.
Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul also had to make use of Rally 2 to re-join on Sunday morning, after their rally was brought to a sudden halt on Saturday’s opening stage. All in all, It was an unrepresentative weekend for Hyundai Motorsport overall, although it ended on a positive as Sordo claimed Power Stage victory and five extra points towards his drivers’ championship total. That result saw Sordo take a total of five stage wins, equal with rally winner Ott Tanak.
Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Paddon and Marshall suffered two separate punctures over the weekend, which cost them time on Friday and Saturday. In their fifth event together, the crew continued to push and were rewarded with a handful of top-three times later in the rally, including second in Sunday’s SS20 (Losheim am See).
Paddon said: “When conditions were more consistent, we showed some improvement in performance compared to last year, so there are some positives to take away from this tough weekend. I knew this would be one of the hardest rallies of the season, so I am pleased that we made it to the end, and showing better stage times. I am going back home to NZ for a month, during which I will also take part in a few gravel rallies, so I am looking forward to that. Then, it’s back to Europe when we will begin our push for a good result to finish the season.”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
For Sordo and Martí, their hopes of a third podium of the season were ruined after an off on Friday morning. However, the Spaniards showed improved performance on Saturday, including three stage wins, and ending the rally with Power Stage victory on Sunday.
Sordo said: “This hasn’t been the rally we wanted at all so it was nice to end it with a win in the Power Stage. It shows what we might have been able to achieve without our problems this weekend. I am disappointed in myself for the mistake I made on Friday, which ended our hopes of a good result. I am sorry to the team for what happened, but we have tried to perform better in these past two days. Now, all I can do is look forward to my home event in Spain where I will be trying all I can to get back onto the podium – and plan to finish the season in the best way possible.”
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Having moved into the podium positions at the end of Friday, it was a stark turnaround in fortunes for Neuville and Gilsoul on Saturday. Forced to restart on Sunday morning under Rally 2, the Belgians struggled for pace and saw their run of Power Stage points broken as well.
Neuville said: “We made too many small mistakes this morning and struggled with the handling of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We didn’t have enough time in the car on Saturday to prepare ourselves in the best way for these final stages. It’s obviously a massive disappointment to come away with so little from a rally in which we were hoping to be at the front. The championship is not over. I will give everything to turn things around in the final three rounds of the season.”
Short trip home
Hyundai Motorsport will return to its factory in Alzenau to reflect and learn from a difficult home rally weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Not so much a weekend to forget, as a rally from which we must learn and bounce back. We thought we would be able to mount a stronger challenge in our home event, but for a number of different reasons we were just not able to do it. We know from other rallies this season that our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is competitive, so this result is hard to accept. As I said after our disappointing Saturday, it is not in our nature to give up without a fight, and that’s the mentality with which we will tackle the three remaining rallies. Dani’s victory in the Power Stage gives us a bit of lift as we head into the long break.”
The WRC takes a six-week break before returning for Rally de España, which takes place from 5-8 October. It will act as the 11th round of the 13-event 2017 season. The Spanish round of the championship is the only mixed surface rally of the season, tackling gravel and tarmac terrain.
Final Overall Classification - Rallye Deutschland
|1||O. Tänak||M. Järveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||2:57:31.7|
|2||A. Mikkelsen||A. Jaeger||Citroën C3 WRC||+16.4|
|3||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||+30.4|
|4||J. Hänninen||K. Lindström||Toyota Yaris WRC||+1:49.2|
|5||C. Breen||S. Martin||Citroën C3 WRC||+2:01.5|
|6||E. Evans||D. Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:03.4|
|7||J.M. Latvala||M. Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||+3:58.2|
|8||H. Paddon||S. Marshall||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+4:32.4|
Toyota Australia has marked the brand's return season to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) by signing on as a leading sponsor of this year's final round, Rally Australia in November. The local deal positions Toyota as the exclusive provider of official vehicles for the "lucky" 13th round of this year's championship to be based around Coffs Harbour from November 16-19.
Signing of the agreement comes at the mid-point of a season that has been marked by the successful development of the new Toyota Yaris WRC in tough rally conditions that have included snow and ice as well as rocky gravel surfaces.
Toyota Australia's executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the company is keen to support Rally Australia, which will feature the Toyota Gazoo Racing world rally team and well-known local Toyota drivers.
"Toyota's commitment to rallying comes from the very top with our global president Akio Toyoda firmly believing that overcoming the extreme challenges of motorsport is vital in our quest to build ever-better cars," Cramb said.
"There is a strong bond between Toyota and rallying going back to the 1970s with four WRC drivers' and three WRC manufacturers' titles at the global level," he said. "We are also proud of our relationship with four-time Australian rally champions Neal Bates and Coral Taylor - a 25-year relationship during which time Toyota has also won two local manufacturers' titles. We expect to see the Bates clan - including Neal's sons Harry and Lewis - competing at their usual high standard during this year's event."
Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford welcomed Toyota Australia as a major event partner.
"As Rally Australia in 2017 celebrates its 25th year as a WRC event, it's wonderful to welcome a partner with its own great rally history. Toyota's name is synonymous with the sport, especially here in Australia," Rainsford said. "And while the Toyota Gazoo Racing world rally team will be drawing fans to spectate on the special stages in November, Toyota's range of road vehicles also will be in action, serving our event in many demanding official roles."
Kennards Hire Rally Australia will mark the completion of the first year of Toyota's return to the premier category of world rallying after a 17-year break. Led by four-time WRC champion Tommi Mäkinen, the Toyota Gazoo Racing world rally team has developed the Yaris WRC in tandem with Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Cologne, Germany.
The car features a 1.6-litre turbo-charged, direct-injection engine that produces more than 279kW, while advanced simulation, testing and production techniques have shaped the Yaris chassis. In this year's title race, Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala has driven the Yaris WRC to victory in the snow and ice of Sweden while adding second place in the season-opening Monte Carlo rally and last month in Sardinia.
Latvala is third in the driver's championship with five rounds remaining, including Rally Australia. The team's other drivers are Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi, who has burst onto the scene by scoring points in his first two rallies.
Toyota's WRC heritage includes famous cars like the Celica Twin-Cam Turbo and GT-Four variants and the Corolla WRC with legendary drivers such as Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol.
Bates and Taylor - in addition to their ARC victories in 1993-95 and 2008 - have won three Australian Classic Rally Championships and Targa Tasmania. They have also competed in WRC events for Toyota Team Europe.
Australia hosted the WRC from Perth in 1989 to 2006 and from NSW since 2009 with this year's event being the sixth Rally Australia on gravel shire and forestry roads around Coffs Harbour.
Hyundai's Thierry Neuville won Orlen 74th Rally Poland on Sunday after one of the most remarkable battles in FIA World Rally Championship history. The Belgian claimed his third victory of the season after Ott Tänak crashed out of a slender lead three special stages from the finish.
The Hyundai i20 driver cut Sébastien Ogier’s championship advntage to 11 points with four rounds remaining until the final event at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast on 16-19 November.
Tickets for Kennards Hire Rally Australia are available now from Ticketek.com. The four-day Poland rally provided edge-of-the-seat drama throughout in torrential rain, driving winds and thick mud.
The lead changed hands 10 times in 23 stages as title-chasers Neuville and Tänak traded tenths of a second on the WRC’s fastest roads, where average speeds reached as high as 135 kmh. Neuville began Sunday’s final leg in front, but a stunning drive through the opening speed test promoted Tänak ahead. But in the next stage his Estonian rival slammed his Ford Fiesta into a tree.
He limped to the finish but the damage was too great to continue. Neuville eased through the remaining kilometres to head teammate Hayden Paddon pf New Zealand by 1min 23.9sec. Tänak’s heartbreaking retirement lifted teammate Ogier into third place, a further 56.9sec adrift. Dani Sordo in fourth wrapped up a hugely successful weekend for Hyundai Motorsport.
“Ott drove a great rally. In such a fight nobody gives up. I wasn’t ready to give up and was prepared to win,” said Neuville, for whom this was a sixth consecutive podium. “I was sorry for him and congratulate him on the job he did before he crashed. He was amazing again and one guy who was hard to beat.”
Tänak was chasing his second straight win after claiming a maiden victory in Italy last month. It was the third year he has tasted disappointment in Poland after leading in 2015 and 2016 but failing to secure victory.
“It was the only muddy place in the forest. Maybe I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I hit a bank with the rear and it pulled the front into a tree at high speed,” Tänak said. “Was I driving too hard? You need to push hard if you want to win.”
Paddon ended a torrid 12 months since his last podium. The Kiwi could not match the pace of the early starters on Friday’s rain-soaked and sludgy tracks, but an error-free event, combined with several stage wins as conditions improved, brought its reward.
Ogier was blighted by a string of problems in his Fiesta, including sliding into a field on Sunday morning, but the Frenchman persevered to finish 26.6sec clear of Sordo. The Spaniard punctured a tyre but ended 24.4sec clear of Stéphane Lefebvre, who equalled his career-best result and brought hope to his struggling Citroën team.
A final stage spin cost Teemu Suninen fifth, but the Finn was hugely impressive on his World Rally Car debut with M-Sport.
Mads Østberg and Elfyn Evans were next up, while Citroën draftee Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Juho Hänninen for tenth in the final stage.
The next round of the WRC is Neste Rally Finland on 27-30 July. Based in the university city of Jyvaskyla, the event known formerly as the Rally of 1000 Lakes is one of the most famous on the calendar, popular for its spectacular high-speed stages along gravel forest roads lined by trees and featuring numerous jumps.
RESULTS, Orlen 74th Rally Poland:
- Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h40m46.1s
- Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m23.9s
- Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m20.8s
- Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m47.4s
- Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m11.8s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m16.8s
- Mads Ostberg/Ola Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m39.6s
- Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m39.1s
- Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +4m43.5s
- Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4m53.7s
The first Hyundai Motorsport built project designed for circuit racing will make a first public appearance next month. The team, together with development partners BRC, will continue the testing of the TCR project, running at the Touring Car Endurance Series’ 24H Misano in Italy on 7-9 July.
The entry will also carry the project’s official name for the first time over the weekend. Newly christened the Hyundai i30 N TCR, the racecar complements the forthcoming high-performance N range from Hyundai, and will further show the high-performance engineering capabilities of the brand. Like its road car counterpart the i30 N TCR will complete extensive testing in order to provide the best possible package to customers when deliveries begin in early December.
The Hyundai i30 N is the first road-going model from the N family. Set for launch in the second half of 2017, the car brings together Hyundai Motorsport’s experience and the company’s fast-growing expertise in high-performance engineering to deliver maximum fun on the road and on the track.
Having successfully completed initial tests in Spain and Italy the TCR car will travel to Misano on the invitation of both the race organisers Creventic and series sponsor Hankook. Hyundai Motorsport will take advantage of the opportunity to run in conditions that are not easily replicated in normal testing conditions.
Taking advantage of new testing opportunities
The team will look to complete long runs that will begin to simulate the tyre and brake wear that future customers would experience in the range of long-distance events where TCR cars are eligible to compete. The race will also be an opportunity to assess the endurance fuel filling system to make sure that it performs as expected in a racing pitstop. Running during the night will also give the team a chance to assess different lighting options that will be eventually be offered to customers, as well as testing how the car’s systems react to the cooler night time temperatures, and the constantly changing track conditions as the race continues.
Not yet homologated the car will not be part of the specific TCR class at the event, but will instead be grouped with GT4 machinery in the race. However, while the Hyundai i30 N TCR will be running during the competitive session throughout the weekend the team’s aim is not oriented on results. Instead, the key target will be to see how the car behaves in the different conditions. To achieve this the team will not run continuously throughout the race, but instead split the event into segments allowing time to alter the chassis set-up to gain further information from the weekend.
While, for the car itself the long runs made possible by entering the event will be a new step in the development process, the engine has already undergone extensive endurance testing. The two-litre turbocharged motor has already completed a pair of trouble-free 40+ hour dyno sessions at Hyundai’s global R&D Centre in Namyang, Korea earlier this year.
Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing manager Andrea Adamo said: “Entering the Hyundai i30 N TCR at the 24H Misano is a unique opportunity for us during the development phase of the project. Obviously the running we have already completed, and that which we plan for the coming months, is very important, however, this event will give us the chance to test in conditions that are impossible to replicate away from a competitive event. Though we will not run continuously through the entire event we will manage our time on track, splitting the race in several sections where we can focus on long runs and the endurance racing aspects of the our design. With time on track at night, as well during daylight will also mean that we can see how the car’s behavior shifts depending on atmospheric and track conditions that will be constantly changing.”