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|
Jaguar announced its return to global motorsport. In the autumn of 2016, Jaguar will enter the third season of the exciting FIA Formula E Championship as a manufacturer with its own team. FIA Formula E is the world’s first global single-seater championship for electric powered cars. FIA Formula E offers a unique opportunity for Jaguar Land Rover to further the development of future EV powertrain including motor and battery technology.
Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director for Jaguar Land Rover, said: “I am proud to announce Jaguar's return to racing with an entry into the innovative FIA Formula E championship. Electric vehicles will absolutely play a role in Jaguar Land Rover's future product portfolio and Formula E will give us a unique opportunity to further our development of electrification technologies. The Championship will enable us to engineer and test our advanced technologies under extreme performance conditions. It is my belief that over the next five years we will see more changes in the automotive world than in the last three decades. The future is about being more connected and more sustainable; electrification and lightweight technologies are becoming more important than ever as urbanisation continues to increase. Formula E has recognised and reacted to these trends and the championship's exciting and pioneering approach is the perfect fit for our brand."
Jaguar Land Rover employs over 8,000 engineers and is the UK's largest investor in research and development across any business sector. Jaguar's Formula E team will be able to draw upon this industry leading resource with Jaguar Land Rover engineers working closely with the race operations team. Those engineers will not only be able to apply their knowledge within the race team environment but crucially use the experience to extract data and push the boundaries of electric technology in a performance environment.
Williams Advanced Engineering will be Technical Partner to the Jaguar Formula E Team and provide extensive motorsport knowledge, combined with high performance EV Systems experience and success. Jaguar Land Rover has a long term relationship with Williams, who partnered with Jaguar on the development of the Jaguar C-X75 plug-in hybrid concept car. The team entry has been granted by Formula E and approved by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
Alejandro Agag, Chief Executive Officer for Formula E, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jaguar into Formula E. Jaguar is a brand with a rich sporting heritage and the fact that it is returning to global motorsport with Formula E is a huge endorsement of the championship and its ability to influence the development of electric cars. Jaguar brings with it a passionate fan base that will drive the popularity of the championship across the world and once again shows that Formula E is the future of motorsport.”
Jean Todt, President of the FIA said: “The FIA is pleased to welcome Jaguar as a new manufacturer to enter the FIA Formula E Championship. We built this series to offer an alternative competition for manufacturers to step into the sport and develop road-relevant electric technologies. The choice of Jaguar to come back to motor racing with Formula E is a proof of success. As it forges a path forward for the future of the electric car, Formula E managed to attract one of the most prestigious and historical brand across the automotive industry. I wish them success ahead of their arrival in 2016/2017”.
James Barclay, Jaguar Team Director, said: “We looked in detail at alternative ways of returning to motorsport. This was such an important decision for Jaguar and we wanted to get it right. With our future EV plans, Formula E was the obvious choice and we believe that the benefits are enormous. The FIA and the promoter have exciting plans for the future of the championship and we are proud to be one of the first vehicle manufacturers to commit to the series with our own team. We have a lot of work to do ahead of the first race but it is a challenge we relish. We hope that we can welcome a new generation of fans to Jaguar through this exciting programme.”
More details on Jaguar’s return to racing including team presentation, drivers and partners will be released in the run up to season three.
An incident filled race weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium saw McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente and teammate Miguel Ramos extend the lead of the International GT Open championship with a double podium finish for customer team Teo Martin Motorsport. Changeable conditions midway through the first race caught out the team’s sister car, driven by fellow McLaren GT factory driver Rob Bell and McLaren GT Young Driver Andrew Watson, but the pairing showed strong pace throughout the weekend, securing pole position and a solid top five finish in the second race.
Qualifying for the first race of the weekend saw Rob Bell qualify the #59 650S GT3 on the front row of the grid, closely followed by championship regulars Parente and Ramos in P3. From the start, Bell took control of the race, maintaining the lead until he pitted to hand over to Young Driver Andrew Watson. On rejoining the circuit with slick tyres, the young Ulsterman was caught out by a sudden downpour through the notorious Eau Rouge. Despite his best efforts, Watson was unable to prevent the car sliding off the track into the barriers, bringing his charge to an early end. A well-managed stint by Parente’s teammate Ramos, saw the Portuguese factory driver take over for the second stint and he wasted no time in chasing down the leaders.
With time running down, Parente showed his class in the tricky conditions, closing the gap on each lap, and was quickly up into a podium position. At the end of the 27 lap race, Parente brought the #2 650S GT3 home in P2, just 1.421s behind the race winner. This result crucially maintained the championship lead for Parente and Ramos by a single point.
The grid for race 2 of the weekend was set during a damp session on Saturday, ahead of the first race, and it was a closely-fought battle over the front row positions by Watson and Parente. The two McLaren drivers traded fastest times during the session as a dry line started to appear around the 7.004km circuit. In the dying seconds, Watson returned to the track taking a gamble on slick tyres, and moved himself back up to top the timesheets on his championship debut.
The race itself saw Bell and Ramos take the start for Teo Martin Motorsport, with the pair holding position. As the pit-window opened, the McLaren duo pitted for routine driver changes with both cars running strongly. Parente returned to the track and moved into the lead with Watson close behind in P2. As the chequered flag fell, Parente took the race win and was followed over the line by Watson in the #59 650S GT3. However, a post-race investigation penalised the young driver with 40 seconds added to the youngster’s race time, dropping to P5.
Alvaro Parente, Factory Driver, McLaren GT
“Another strong weekend for the 650S GT3 and Teo Martin Motorsport, and great to come away with an extended lead in the championship. The car ran faultlessly in both races, and we showed strong pace in the challenging conditions to secure two strong results. Spa is such a fantastic circuit to race on, and the 650S GT3 really comes into its own around here. It feels so stable and composed, and the team continues to do a great job to ensure we are in a strong position in the championship with two rounds to go.”
Andrew Watson, Young Driver, McLaren GT
“Overall, it was a great weekend, but it definitely had its challenges, and its highs and lows. However, the main thing I will take away is just how much I learnt – working closely with Rob [Bell] and pulling on his experiences of a race weekend, and seeing how a different team operates in a championship of this level. The retirement from Race 1 was a real disappointment, but to put the car on pole position on my championship debut, and then bring the car home in the top five was a great end to the weekend. I would like to thank Teo Martin and the whole team for the opportunity, and now looking forward to the next round of the Avon Tyres British GT championship.”
Andrew Kirkaldy, Managing Director, McLaren GT
“Congratulations to Teo Martin Motorsport on a strong weekend overall. A front row and three podium finishes, including the race win for Alvaro [Parente] to extend his lead with Miguel Ramos in championship, and pole position and a top five for Rob [Bell} and Andrew [Watson] is a great result. Especially when you think this is still the debut season for the car. Andrew was unlucky with how his race ended, being caught out by the sudden rain storm – but then that unpredictability is why we love Spa!”
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders head ‘down under’ for the 10th round of the series, Coates Hire Rally Australia, which is based in the coastal resort of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. Fast and technical gravel stages run in picturesque forests and open countryside lay in wait and, despite some changes to the route, it still remains one of the most compact on the calendar.
After its commanding podium lock-out on the last round in Germany, Volkswagen Motorsport heads to Australia with all three titles within its grasp. In the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships, it is now guaranteed that only a Volkswagen crew will be crowned the 2015 FIA World Rally Champions, and once again Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in pole position at the head of the leaderboard. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, the team also has the opportunity to seal its third consecutive title with the Polo R WRC.
The battle in the FIA WRC 2 Championship continues in Australia too. Nasser Al-Attiyah currently leads and will be looking to capitalise on his position, being that only two of his five closest rivals will be contesting the event.
Three stages will be broadcast live on television; SS10, Valla, on Saturday and the two runs through Wedding Bells on Sunday, the second of which counts as the Power Stage.
The 2015 Route
Just one of the nine special stages is identical to last year – Wedding Bells – and four of the other stages have small modifications. Four stages are totally new; three are run on Friday – Utungan, Bakers Creek and Northbank – while the 6.4 kilometre Settles Road stage on Sunday is also new but uses part of the 2013 shakedown stage, run in reverse. Saturday not only features two runs through the 50.80 kilometre Nambucca stage, but also a night test, which is a first for Rally Australia.
Draft regulations for the Australian Rally Championship have been released for the 2016 season. The regulations centre around the new generation four-wheel-drive AP4 class and sketching the concept for another new four-wheel-drive class, to be known as G4. These regulations revolve around the ‘Maxi’ rally cars and consist of a modified body shell with set dimensions, and a control kit of parts. The cars will be powered by a 1600cc turbo engine with a 34mm restrictor. The regulations that cover the G4 allow teams to use donor car parts to alter two-wheel drive production cars into four-wheel drive rally cars. The cars will also have a 34mm restrictor on the turbo and will 2000cc engines.
The G4 rules are similar to the Group N(P) regulations that allowed Neal Bates Motorsport to build and run Group N-spec Toyota Corollas in the mid-to-late 2000s.
“We have designed the AP4 regulations to reflect the concept of FIA R5/S2000 category vehicles but at significantly lower cost,” explained ARCom chairman Colin Trinder. “The current generation of PRC/FIA Group N spec cars have served our sport incredibly well for almost 20 years, but since 2013 the FIA has moved away from these categories, adopting more ‘race-car’ like R formula cars. “We’ve looked closely at the R category vehicles and concluded that at the top end it just too costly for rallying in Australia and New Zealand. “However, we believe that in both the AP4 and G4 regulations we will have the ability to incorporate a lot of the elements of the FIA cars at a much lower cost point for competitors.
“Australia and New Zealand agreed that it would be silly for each country to develop its own interpretation of the FIA’s R category when we all face the same problems – an ageing fleet of existing cars and potentially unmanageable costs to develop new generation FIA-compliant cars. “We hope that our combined efforts with these regulations will foster development of this category and cooperation across the Tasman for the good of both our championships.”