Ford has confirmed its return to motorsport by announcing its support for DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing as they prepare to race Ford Mustangs in the 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

“Ford Performance’s diverse line-up of vehicles reflects customer feedback that Australians are looking for advanced, efficient, performance models across all types of vehicles,” said Ford Australia President and CEO, Graeme Whickman. “Ford Performance is about technology, innovation and product performance and to showcase our confidence in our performance range, we are bringing Mustang and the Ranger Raptor to the Supercars series in 2019.”

“We are giving Mustang a proper birthday today, with the Australian unveiling of the new 2018 model and confirming its Australian track-debut with Supercars in 2019,” said Whickman.

The new Ford Mustang will make its Australian track debut at the first round of the Supercars Series in March 2019 at the Adelaide 500. Ford Australia and Ford Performance are working with DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing in homologation of Mustang for competition next year, as the Supercars Series enables two-door coupes entry into the nation’s most popular series for the first time since its inception in 1997.

Daniel Ricciardo won the Chinese Grand Prix after championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen collided during a thrilling race.

Ricciardo started from sixth place, taking advantage of an excellent pit stop strategy to chase his rivals, hauling in Lewis Hamilton, Valterri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel with amazing manoeuvres under brakes.

Valtteri Bottas aiming for victory after Ferrari made an error which allowed Bottas to move ahead of Vettel during their pit stop.

The race shifted when the safety car was deployed following a collision between the Toro Rosso pair of Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly on the 31st lap.

Ricciardo and Verstappen diverted to the pits to strap on fresh tires which paid off for Ricciardo as he passed Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Vettel and finally Bottas for a big win.

Verstappen, who was ahead of Ricciardo, ruined his chance of victory, when he ran off road while attempting to make his way past Hamilton and then later struck Vettel.

The collision caused Vettel to finish in eighth place which allowed Hamilton to reach fourth after Verstappen received a 10-second penalty.

McLaren's Fernando Alonso overtook Vettel for seventh place on the penultimate lap.

"I don't seem to win boring races," Ricciardo said after claiming victory. "That was unexpected. It was hectic. I heard the safety car call a turn 14 and they said we are going to stop. It happened very quickly, but it was a decisive, winning move.”

Hyundai i30 N TCR customer teams lead the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) points after a spectacular performance across the opening three races of the brand new championship at the Race of Morocco (7-8 April). With two wins from the weekend, as well as the five points on offer for taking pole position from Sunday’s qualifying session, BRC Racing Team driver Gabriele Tarquini leads the championship.

Having already taken victory in Saturday’s historic first race around the Marrakech street circuit Tarquini led four i30 N TCR to lock-out the front two rows of the grid in the weekend’s second qualifying session, with his BRC teammate Norbert Michelisz and the pair of Yvan Muller Racing cars lining up behind him. After a battling Race 2, where their stellar one-lap pace put them at the back of a reversed top-ten, the Hyundai-running teams returned to the front for the finale.

Tarquini led from lights to flag to earn his way onto the top step of the podium ahead of the two YMR entered drivers, led by Team Manager Yvan Muller. Unaffected by the brake issues that dogged rival manufacturers thought the weekend, despite the series’ Balance of Performance regulations making the i30 N TCR one of the heaviest cars on the grid, the teams hold a handsome lead in the standings.

Gabriele Tarquini said about his historic win: “The Hyundai i30 N TCR was fantastic, fast and reliable, and kept a great pace all weekend. BRC Team impeccably coped with every situation. I’m over the moon and hope the dream continues”.

Norbert Michelisz explains: “It was a pretty unlucky weekend, but I still managed to get important scores for the general ranking. We have 27 races ahead and nothing is lost. I’m very motivated for the next event, my home race at Hungaroring”.

BRC Racing Team CEO Massimiliano Fissore commented: “The Marrakech weekend was very positive for BRC Racing Team. We proved to have a good team, excellent drivers and the Hyundai i30 N TCR was extremely competitive. These factors make us optimistic for the season ahead, and we believe we have all the parts to be among those challenging for the victory all year”.

Double 1-2 from Pirelli World Challenge debut

The sensational debut on the world stage completed an incredible few weeks for i30 N TCR customers. Opening the Pirelli World Challenge season at the Circuit of the Americas (March 24-25) in Texas, Bryan Herta Autosport dominated the first event for the TCR category in the championship. Drivers Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis swept the front row in qualifying for the Hyundai America backed team – beginning their first season in touring cars - and then went on to take 1-2 results in both races, with each man taking a victory in a perfect start to their campaign.

TCR class podium on first Nordschleife run

The same weekend a pair of Hyundai N entered i30 N TCR took on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in the first round of the VLN championship. Despite being left facing the wrong way at the very first corner of the four-hour race Tarquini and Korean driver Jae Kyun Kim fought back to finish third in a very competitive TCR class on the incredibly demanding 25km circuit. The experienced pairing of Nicola Larini and Manuel Lauck also fought back after problems early in the running, after Larini slid off track on oil dropped by a competitor and damaged the right-rear corner against the barrier. The team was able to repair the car, returning the pairing to the action for a sixth placed finish in class.

Young driver shows i30 N TCR pace in TCR UK

With Lewis Kent and his Essex & Kent Motorsport team the i30 N TCR was part of the first weekend of the TCR UK championship at Silverstone (March 31-April 1). One of the youngest drivers in the series Kent qualified a very impressive fourth fastest in mixed conditions. Unfortunately, a minor issue during race day kept him from converting his pace into a deserved result. However, his pace on a single lap gave a signal of intent for his first season in the TCR category.

Panasonic Jaguar Racing returned to Mexico City and achieved their highest ever Formula E points haul to move to third in the team standings. The successful race concludes a historic week for Jaguar following the launch of the new all-electric Jaguar I-PACE.

Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr showcased his consistency and race craft with another strong performance. The team made a strategic decision to keep him out on track for one more lap compared to the rest of the field, giving Nelson more usable energy for the second half of the race. Nelson battled it out for a podium finish with Sebastian Buemi but settled for fourth and more valuable points.

Mitch Evans started in 12th position, and after a strong start in his Jaguar I-TYPE 2 the Kiwi driver rapidly moved into the top ten. A quick pit-stop put him in front of his team-mate but Nelson was able to safely overtake with more energy available and Mitch then had a clean run to the end finishing in sixth.

The British team’s performance in Mexico City demonstrates a fast, consistent and reliable performance in their second season in the ABB FIA Formula E Championships. Panasonic Jaguar Racing move to third place in the team standings with 74 points. Both drivers have held their positions in the driver’s championship with Nelson in fifth and Mitch in seventh place.

James Barclay, Team Director Panasonic Jaguar Racing: “It’s a strong result for the team, the best ever points finish for Panasonic Jaguar Racing. Great progress was made by both drivers, demonstrating the speed of the Jaguar I-TYPE 2 and team this season. To come away from Mexico sitting in third position in the team’s championship, it is clear that we have made huge steps forward and a podium will come soon. We only have a short break before we get back on track in Uruguay and we will renew our focus pushing forward and securing more points.”

Nelson Piquet Jr, #3: “It was a solid race. Depending on the drivers around you, it’s important to make a decision about whether to risk overtaking or conserve energy. A better starting position would have given us a podium, so this will be the aim for Punta del Este in a few days time. I believe the Jaguar I-TYPE 2 is the most consistent car on the track and hopefully soon we will be the quickest as we move towards a top three finish.”

Mitch Evans, #20: “It was a good race for us. I started 12th and finished sixth so I’m definitely happy with that. It was a tough qualifying so I am excited to get another double points finish here in Mexico. The crowd in Mexico City was even bigger than last year and it was a great atmosphere to race in. I’m leaving now for the Geneva Motor Show and the debut of the Jaguar I-PACE before flying out to Punta. I’m really looking forward to my first visit and racing again so soon.”

On Saturday 17 March Panasonic Jaguar Racing will race in Punta del Este for the sixth E-Prix of the ABB FIA Formula E Championships. FanBoost opens for the sixth E-Prix of the season at 17:00 GMT on Monday 12 March and closes 19:10 GMT Saturday 17 March.

Daytona Day was a rousing success for NASCAR, which was able to celebrate its storied past and youthful future on its biggest stage.

The Daytona 500 is the most important race of the year for NASCAR. With Austin Dillon’s victory in the famed No. 3 and Bubba Wallace’s history-making, second-place finish, NASCAR got perhaps its most promising glimpse to date of the next generation.

Dillon wrecked Aric Almirola on the final lap in overtime at Daytona International Speedway to drive the car owned by his grandfather, Richard Childress, back to victory lane 17 years to the day after Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident on the final lap of the season opener. It came 20 years after Earnhardt’s only Daytona 500 victory, and in just the fifth appearance for the No. 3 in “The Great American Race” since Earnhardt’s death.

Dillon and much of his Richard Childress Racing crew celebrated into the wee hours Monday by getting tattoos, permanent ones, on their buttocks. Wallace was the first black driver in the Daytona 500 field since 1969. His finish was the highest in the race for a black driver since Wendell Scott was 13th in 1966, and Wallace got the finish driving the iconic No. 43 for Richard Petty.

Wallace has rocketed to fame in the past month and won new fans following an emotional, post-race scene that included a long, tearful embrace with his mother that symbolized the struggles Wallace has faced on the road to NASCAR’s top series. Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron called Wallace, a fellow native of Mobile, Ala., before the Daytona 500. Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula 1, tweeted that he would be cheering for Wallace. When told about Hamilton’s well-wishes, Wallace admitted to “fan-girling out.”

“I look up to him. He does so many great things in the F1 world. ... Then he sent out a tweet and I got weak at the knees,” said Wallace.

Wallace noted what the kind words from Aaron and Hamilton really mean for the sport.

“People are tuning in and hopefully noticing the new face and the new change that are coming to NASCAR,” he said. There has been much angst over NASCAR’s problems, and there are many issues, including the weak TV ratings for the Daytona 500. The 5.1 overnight for Fox was down 22 per cent from last year.

It’s problematic, and NASCAR needs to find new reasons for fans to watch. There had been much hand-wringing over the retirements of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick, but it may have been unnecessary concern. Why? Because their replacements are really racy and showed Sunday they aren’t content to simply turn laps in a pack, collect paychecks and take chartered flights home.

Wallace sparred with 2016 winner Denny Hamlin, a Manchester High graduate, on the final lap, then criticized Hamlin afterward. Ryan Blaney led a race-high 118 laps and wrecked Kurt Busch, last year’s winner, trying to win the race. Chase Elliott was wrecked racing for points at the end of the first stage. Alex Bowman started from the pole and was the top Hendrick Motorsports driver.

All those drivers are under 30 years old and are considered the future of the sport. If they race the rest of the season as they did at Daytona, the on-track product might be pretty good. The changing of the guard was so palpable at Daytona that Dillon could feel the energy in the garage. Once awestruck to be racing against his childhood heroes, Dillon is part of a new crop eager to spice up the series. Previously, he just wanted to stay out of the way of the veterans.

“I feel like a lot of these guys are coming in, we’re all going to start trying to be ourselves because the people that led our sport for so long have kind of moved out,” Dillon said. “It definitely feels good to have Bubba and I up there and fighting. I think there’s going to be some great battles this year with all the young guys. There’s going to be storylines, and the NASCAR fans are going to love what they see.”

Thierry Neuville kept calm in the heat of a furious fight to win Rally Sweden for Hyundai on Sunday and take the lead in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Belgian became only the third non-Nordic driver to win the calendar's only pure winter rally and end an agonising 12-month wait after crashing out of a comfortable lead last year.

The win was Neuville’s first since Kennards Hire Rally Australia last November. Off-setting a disappointing result on the season-opener in Monte-Carlo three weeks ago, it also put him at the top of the drivers’ standings – ahead of Sébastien Ogier - and the factory Hyundai squad first in the manufacturers’ competition.

He overcame an electrical glitch with his Hyundai's gearshift, a lurid spin into a snow bank and extreme pressure from the chasing pack to win the four-day encounter on snow and ice-covered forest roads by 19.8sec.

"It's an incredible weekend. We didn't expect to be so fast over here this year, but the team and the car gave us the chance to fight for victory. We deserved it last year, even more this year," Neuville said. He finally broke clear of his pursuers on Saturday afternoon and, with five stage wins to his credit, eased through Sunday's final three tests to head Ireland's Craig Breen, driving a Citroën C3, for whom second was a career-best result.

Breen climbed to second on Saturday morning when Andreas Mikkelsen spun at the same point as Neuville. He kept his composure to hold off the Norwegian, teammate to the rally winner, by 8.5sec. Esapekka Lappi hounded Neuville early on until he plunged down the order after burying his Toyota Yaris in a snow bank. He fought back and gained two places in the final three stages to finish fourth, 17.5sec adrift of Mikkelsen.

A final stage mistake from Hayden Paddon made life easier for Lappi. Although capturing two stage wins in his season return for Hyundai, the Kiwi stalled his i20 a couple of kilometres from the finish and trailed the Finn by 8.6sec. After only a day's pre-event testing, Mads Østberg was sixth on his debut drive in a C3. The Norwegian ran as high as second but slid down the order as unfamiliarity with the car and a lack of confidence in its set-up cost time.

Jari-Matti Latvala, who delivered Toyota Gazoo Racing a fairytale win last season on only the Japanese manufacturer's second rally back at the top level after a 17-year absence, was seventh after being delayed by a troublesome front differential and adverse road conditions. Fellow Finn Teemu Suninen was seventh in a Ford Fiesta and the leading M-Sport World Rally Team driver after the squad, which headed the manufacturers' standings after Rallye Monte-Carlo, endured a nightmare weekend.

Ott Tänak and Monte-Carlo winner Sébastien Ogier dropped big chunks of time in Friday's opening leg as they ploughed a path through deep snow. Ogier won the most stages overall, six, but neither he nor his world champion M-Sport teammate could regain lost ground, finishing ninth and 11th respectively.

The WRC tackles dramatically different conditions when it continues at the high-altitude Rally Guanajuato Mexico on 8-11 March. The gravel event based in León, 330 kilometres north of Mexico City, will see the return of nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb in the first of three 2018 cameos with the Citroën World Rally Team.

Final outright final standings, Rally Sweden (WRC round 2):

  1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h52.13.1s
  2. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8s
  3. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3s
  4. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8s
  5. Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4s
  6. Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m15.3s
  7. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m04.9s
  8. Teeu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m52.2s
  9. Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m44.4s
  10. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m27.4s

Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis have taken out this year's Targa North West in a 2015 Subaru WRX Sti.

The overnight leaders stretched their lead over the final five stages to finish clear of Paul Stokell and Jason Page in a 2014 Lotus Exige by just under four minutes, with Tony Quinn and Kate Catford claiming third, a further 52 seconds back in a 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo. After taking a 37 second lead, GT2 frontrunners Paul Stokell and Jason Page extended their lead over Peter Nunn and Keith Johnstone in a Porsche GTS, to take out the class by a comfortable one minute 39 seconds. Alan Roe and Michael Lloyd finished third.

Glenney and Sarandis also took the honours in GT4, with Crichton Lewis and Adam Kudra finishing second, also in a Subaru WRX Sti almost ten minutes back. Nathan and Nicholas Stokes finished third, to make it a Subaru trifecta on the podium. For Glenney, he was thrilled at how the car performed over the whole weekend.

"The weekend went well, brand new car, reliable, fast, safe and easy to drive as ever, so great weekend and good to get a good result, and Andy did a fantastic job next to me," Glenney said. "It was a great podium result; one, two, three for Subaru, so the Buckby boys are going well," Glenney added.

It was a tremendous weekend for Graham Copeland and Josh Herbert in their 1941 GMC Jimmy Special, as they led from start-to-finish to take out Shannons Classic by a margin of eight minutes 29 seconds. Nik Prieston and Dylan Braithwaite, in a 1976 Fiat Abarth 131 Rallye had a consistent weekend, to claim second place.

Copeland was understandably thrilled with the result.

"It's awesome; it's my first Targa North West title and Josh did such a fantastic job also," Copeland said. "The roads were fantastic; the Hellyer Gorge North stage is probably the best Targa stage I've ever done," Copeland added.

The 1975 Holden Torana of Michael and Daniel Bray extended their overnight lead to take out Shannons Classic GT comfortably by almost 12 minutes from Mick Downey and Jarrod Van Den Akker in a 1977 Holden Commodore, with Geoff Goodwin and Phillip Smith third.

Just 14 seconds separated Tony Quinn and Kate Catford in their 2001 Porsche 911, and Jon Mitchell and Joshua Sutcliffe in a 2006 Subaru WRX S204 after the opening day in Early Modern, however Quinn dominated the final day, increasing his lead over the five stages to claim victory by 55 seconds. Richard Woodman and Marcus Towle have taken out the GT Sports Trophy in a 2004 Subaru WRX Sti. They increased their lead over Geoff Storr and Steve Caplice in their 1978 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV at every stage, to take out the class by over 16 minutes.

In TSD Trophy it was Jeffrey Wilson and Ian Samson in a 2010 Subaru WRX Sti who finished well clear of Luke Anear and Alan Stephensen in a 2017 Ford Focus RS. Round two of the 2018 Australian Targa Championship is the running of Targa Tasmania from 16th - 21st April, to be followed by the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef from 31st August to 2nd September. The Championship finishes with Targa High Country from 9th - 11th November.


2018 Targa North West – Provisional results

Outright:

  1. Steve Glenney / Andy Sarandis, 2015 Subaru WRX Sti
  2. Paul Stokell / Jason Page, 2014 Lotus Exige, +3m55s
  3. Tony Quinn / Kate Catford, 2001 Porsche 996 Turbo, 4m47ss
  4. Peter Nunn / Keith Johnstone, 2016 Porsche GTS, +5m34s
  5. Jon Mitchell / Joshua Sutcliffe, 2006 Subaru WRX S204, +5m42s


GT2:

  1. Paul Stokell / Jason Page, 2014 Lotus Exige
  2. Peter Nunn / Keith Johnstone, 2016 Porsche GTS, +1m39s
  3. Alan Roe / Michael Lloyd, 2016 BMW M2, +3m28s


GT4:

  1. Steve Glenney / Andy Sarandis, 2015 Subaru WRX Sti
  2. Crichton Lewis / Adam Kudra, 2015 Subaru WRX Sti, +9m38s
  3. Nathan Stokes / Nicholas Stokes, 2014 Subaru Sti +11m34s


Shannons Classic:

  1. Graham Copeland / Josh Herbert, 1941 GMC Jimmy Special
  2. Nik Prieston / Dylan Braithwaite, 1976 Fiat Abarth 131 Rallye, +8m29ss
  3. Peter Gluskie / Samantha Winter, 1985 BMW E30 325i, +10m51s


Shannons Classic GT:

  1. Michael Bray / Daniel Bray, 1975 Holden Torana
  2. Mick Downey / Jarrod Van Den Akker, 1977 Holden Commodore, +11m43s
  3. Geoff Goodwin / Phillip Smith, 1983 Nissan 300ZX, +18m13s


Duttons Garage Early Modern:

  1. Tony Quinn / Kate Catford, 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo
  2. Jon Mitchell / Joshua Sutcliffe, 2006 Subaru WRX S204, +55s
  3. Peter Roberts / Suzanne Atkins, 1992 Nissan Skyline GTS-t, +7m40s


GT Sports Trophy:

  1. Richard Woodman / Marcus Towle, 2004 Subaru WRX Sti
  2. Geoff Storr / Steve Caplice, 1978 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV, +16m15s


TSD Trophy:

  1. Jeffrey Wilson / Ian Samson, 2010 Subaru WRX STi, 46 points
  2. Luke Anear / Alan Stephensen, 2017 Ford Focus RS, 171 points

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

  1. Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 1:36'26.550
  2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 19.678
  3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 54.007
  4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 70.078
  5. Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1 lap
  6. Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1 lap
  7. Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1 lap
  8. Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1 lap
  9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1 lap
  10. Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 1 lap
  11. Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1 lap
  12. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1 lap
  13. Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Renault 1 lap
  14. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 2 laps
  15. 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