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.
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|
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
Rally Italia (8-11 June) marks the mid-point of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship and takes the crews to the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The scenery may be spectacular, but the sun-baked gravel tracks make for gruelling, rough and rocky competition, leaving little room for error.
Originally known as the Rally of the Flowers and dating back to 1928, Italy’s round joined the Championship in 1973 and was traditionally a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, on the mainland, before moving to Sardinia in 2004 and becoming a full gravel rally. Run during Europe’s summer months, temperatures are normally high and the hard base roads covered with a sandy surface disadvantage the early runners on the first passage. However, when the loose has been swept away, rough and rutted conditions can easily catch out the unwary. Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, claimed her first WRC victory on Rallye Sanremo in 1981 and remains the first and only female to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
An impressive entry list includes three nominated crews from each of the four registered manufacturers and for the first time this season Andreas Mikkelsen will drive a 2017 specification World Rally Car, the Norwegian joining Citroën Racing for his debut outing in the C3 WRC. The fight in WRC 2 is again sure to be intense and the FIA Junior WRC Championship contenders are back in action for the second round of their series.
Three stages will be broadcast live; Saturday’s Coiluna-Loelle stage (SS13) and both runs through Sassari-Argentiera on Sunday, the second run counting for extra points as the closing Power Stage.
The 2017 Route
The rally is based out of the northwest town of Alghero but after the start and opening super special stage, the crews head to Olbia on the northeast coast for an overnight halt, allowing the organisers to re-introduce the tough Terranova and Monte Olia stages on Saturday. The mid-rally leg is the longest and toughest with 143.16 competitive kilometres run over six stages, while Sunday is identical to last year with two loops of two identical stages, culminating in the all-important Power Stage.
What Was Said…
“The heat and rough roads really define Rally Italia, making it a very tough challenge for the crews as well as the cars,” said Jarmo Mahonen, FIA Rally Director. “In these conditions it’s going to be important to mix car preservation with speed over the rock-strewn stages; the days are also lengthy and the sanctuary of service potentially a long way away for anyone who hits trouble.”
|Total distance:||1,495.36 km|
|Stage distance||312.66 km (20,89 per cent)|
|Number of stages||19|
French driver Sébastien Ogier increased his lead in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship with his second win of the season at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday. Steering home his Ford Fiesta 15.6sec ahead of Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 Coupe, Ogier’s 40th career win also matched the 30-year-old record five Portugal wins of Finn Markku Alén.
Neuville’s teammate Dani Sordo finished third in the championship’s sixth round.
The result, concluded in front of huge spectator crowds on the famous Fafe stage near Porto in northern Portugal, boosted Ogier’s lead to 22 points in his chase for a fifth straight drivers’ world championship. Neuville moved from third to second in the standings, displacing Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala.
On the anniversary of his maiden WRC win in Portugal seven years ago, Ogier took the lead of the four-day gravel contest on Saturday morning. He controlled a comfortable advantage through the final leg to add to his season-opening win in Monte-Carlo. The 2017 championship ends on 16-19 November at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast, where Ogier won in 2013-14-15. Tickets from $39 are on sale now from www.ticketek.com.
“After the struggle we had in the last round, it’s fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium again,” Ogier said at the Portugal finish. “I had a new car in Monte-Carlo and we won. I had a new car here and we won. I’m not sure if the team can afford to give me a new car for every rally!”
Remarkably, Ogier was one of seven drivers to lead during the rally. Belgian Neuville was another. With Mads Østberg, he topped the order in his Hyundai after Thursday night’s opening stage, but slipped away before recovering to second. Neuville, targeting a hat-trick after victories in Corsica and Argentina, changed his driving style to try to regain top spot, but conceded defeat early on Sunday morning.
Teammate Sordo finished a further 46.1sec behind in third. The Spaniard struggled with the handling of his i20 on the dusty gravel roads and could not fend off Ogier and Neuville after lying second earlier in the weekend. Ott Tänak looked to be the man to beat on Saturday. He led before swiping a bank and breaking his Fiesta’s suspension and brakes. He recovered to finish fourth, almost half a minute adrift of Sordo, but had the compensation of winning the rally-closing Power Stage and five bonus points.
Craig Breen was again the leading Citroën C3 driver in fifth, the fourth occasion in six rallies he has occupied that position. He was 27.2sec adrift of Tänak, but well over a minute clear of Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta. The championship reaches its midpoint on 8-11 June at Rally Italia Sardegna, based in Alghero.
RESULTS, Vodafone Rally de Portugal (Rd 6 of 13):
- Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3h42m55.7s
- Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +15.6s
- Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m01.7s
- Ott Tänak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m30.2s
- Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m57.4s
- Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m10.6s
- Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m48.6s
- Mads Østberg/Ola Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m29.7s
- Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5m43.6s
- Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8m13.3s
In one of the most electrifying WRC finales in memory, Hyundai Motorsport has claimed a stunning victory in Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul.
The result marks the team’s second win in a row after Tour de Corse, and its fifth WRC victory in total. Not only is it the first time that Hyundai Motorsport has secured back-to-back successes, the Belgian crew also become the first repeat winners of the 2017 season.
It was a less positive final day for the two other Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews. Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard took sixth place overall, despite experiencing power steering issues for most of the final stage. Meanwhile, the troubles continued for Dani Sordo and Marc Martí as they picked up a front-right puncture in the Power Stage. They were able to bring their car home to take eighth overall.
After a torrid start to the rally on Friday, the #5 crew of Neuville and Gilsoul began an epic fight-back on Saturday to reduce the gap to rally leader Elfyn Evans. From one minute down at the start of the second day, they started Sunday’s three stages with just an 11.5-second deficit. With an incredible stage win in SS17 (Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare), the duo reduced the gap to just 0.6-seconds.
The stage was set for the ultimate showdown with two crews vying head-to-head for victory in the El Condor Power Stage. A quick and clean run by Neuville was enough, as he triumphed by a mere 0.7-seconds. The result enters the history books as the third closest ever finish in WRC after Rally Jordan in 2011 (0.2s) and Rally NZ in 2007 (0.3s).
Taking Power stage spoils as well, Neuville picked up the maximum 30 points on offer in Argentina to advance to third in the increasingly close-fought Drivers’ standings.
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville and Gilsoul took a total of five stage wins over the Rally Argentina weekend as they put in an impressive comeback. Today’s win represents their fourth WRC win as a Hyundai Motorsport crew and the first time they have won twice in a single season. Victory in the final El Condor stage also continued Neuville’s unbroken run of Power Stage points this year, which now totals 19.
Neuville commented: “I cannot believe it. I have never had such a nerve-wracking final few minutes of a rally in my career. It’s an amazing result and I have to say thanks first of all to the team for everything they’ve done. Congratulations also to Elfyn, who put up an incredible fight this weekend. I gave it absolutely everything I had in today’s final stages.
After the difficult start to the rally, I would have been happy to take second but it’s a special feeling to win again. It has been an exciting but crazy rally from the start, so to come away with the victory is fantastic. We wanted to build up our momentum after Corsica and this was the perfect way to do just that. To have the Power Stage win is just the icing on the cake and gives us a very important boost in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship. We could not have asked for more.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Kennard (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Paddon and Kennard had little in the way of good fortune this weekend, in an event that they impressively won twelve months ago. Today’s Power Stage may have been reminiscent of their experiences from 2016, but their own result was a stark contrast. Two stage wins on Friday were a highlight of a tough weekend.
Paddon said: “You could not have written a script more opposite to what we had here last season. We’ve gone from a career high to a result that is much lower on the scale. I just can’t believe our luck. Our issue on Friday was long behind us as we started to show some improved performance. There was not much we could do about our position but we wanted to build a rhythm. I didn’t have the feeling with the car in this morning’s stages, and that culminated with a power steering problem in the Power Stage. We struggled to the finish but sixth place is not where we want to be.”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí were unable to recover from their huge 11-minute deficit on Friday after breaking a steering arm on SS3 (Amboy / Anta Monica). Starting first on the road on Saturday and the opening stages of Sunday meant the Spanish crew could only focus on bringing the car home. A puncture on the Power Stage only compounded their frustrations.
Sordo said: “It has been a horrible weekend for us. The rally was over almost as soon as it had begun, really. When you lose so much time early on in the event, as we did, it is impossible to regain that. We just had to concentrate on bringing the car to the end but even that was difficult. The puncture on El Condor came at the beginning of the stage, and it typified our luck this weekend. Incredibly unfortunate and it’s a shame because I feel that we had the car to do better. I just want to put this behind us and look ahead to Portugal.”
One to remember
Hyundai Motorsport is proud to have played a part in one of the WRC’s closest finishes of all-time. Argentina becomes the first rally where it has taken repeat victories with a Power Stage finale just as nail-biting as it was in 2016. With this result, the team has strengthened its grip on second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “What an incredible finale for a thrilling rally. Our congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas for a victory that we’ll all remember for a long time, and to Elfyn and M-Sport for putting up such an incredible battle. To win by such a small margin after 360km is remarkable, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the closest finishes ever. Argentina is a tough place to come rallying and we knew it would be hard on these new cars in their first event here. We had our fair share of issues and misfortune across all three cars, but it’s sometimes a question of fighting through to the finish.
Hayden and Dani’s Power Stage was full of drama, which really summed up their respective rallies. We have plenty of learning lessons from this event, which will use to improve our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the coming gravel events. For now, though, we can celebrate an important victory. We are very happy to become the first team to win two rallies this season – and we hope we can achieve more.”
The WRC will now return to Europe for Rally de Portugal, which takes place from 18-21 May, the second of five consecutive gravel events.
Final Overall Classification - Rally Argentina
|1||T. Neuville||N. Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3:38:10.6|
|2||E. Evans||D. Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||+0.7|
|3||O. Tanak||M. Jarveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||+29.9|
|4||S. Ogier||J. Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:24.7|
|5||J. M. Latvala||M. Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||+1:48.1|
|6||H. Paddon||J. Kennard||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+7:42.7|
|7||J. Hänninen||K. Lindstrom||Toyota Yaris WRC||+11:16.9|
|8||D. Sordo||M. Martí||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+14:44.1|
|9||M. Østberg||O. Floene||Ford Fiesta WRC||+15:11.3|
|10||P. Tidemand||J. Andersson||Škoda Fabia R5||+17:32.1|
After a difficult start to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Hyundai Motorsport is ready to reassert its credentials as Championship contenders at Rally Mexico, the third event of this year’s campaign.
The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has already displayed rally-winning potential in the opening rounds of the season in Monte-Carlo and Sweden. In the two events to date, the team claimed thirteen stage wins in total, in addition to ten power stage points across all three of its crews.
The team will once again field a three-car entry into the rally with Hayden Paddon returning in the #4 car, Thierry Neuville, who claimed Hyundai Motorsport’s first-ever WRC podium at Rally Mexico in 2014, in the #5 and Dani Sordo, in the #6.
Coming off the back of the coldest event on the WRC calendar, the crews will have to adapt quickly to the much warmer Mexican climate, in what is one of only three rallies to be held outside of Europe. In addition to the hotter temperatures, one of the largest challenges posed by the event is the altitude, with some stages being run at nearly 3,000m above sea level.
With testing prohibited outside of Europe, the team carried out a five-day test in the Granada region of Spain to prepare for Mexico. All three crews had time in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in conditions that replicate those expected next weekend. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC’s engine has been put through its paces on the dyno in a bid to minimise the impact of the lower oxygen levels on the higher stages, which can reduce engine power.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “Mexico is without a doubt one of the toughest events on the schedule with the altitude and massively different climate to our last event in Sweden. These conditions will push the drivers and the cars to the limit, but we are happy with the work that we have done to prepare for this rally. Obviously the last couple of events have been difficult for us but we cannot dwell on that. We know what the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is capable of and we have seen our ability to challenge for the win. We are confident that we can come back strongly in Mexico, where we memorably scored our first ever WRC podium in 2014.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Kennard (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will be hoping to compete for their first podium finish of the season on the Mexican gravel. They achieved a top-five finish in the event twelve months ago, scoring a Power Stage point at the rally’s conclusion. They will be hoping to pick up from there next weekend.
Paddon commented: “I’m looking forward to Rally Mexico. It feels like a long time since we’ve been on gravel and rallying outside of Europe. It’s an event with a nice atmosphere with passionate fans and enjoyable roads. The altitude is a key characteristic of this rally. We have to adjust the car and ourselves to the conditions. We have to make sure that we put in the extra effort so that we’re fully prepared. Maintaining hydration levels in the hotter conditions is obviously important too. We’re going to try everything that we can to put in a solid performance and to secure a positive result.”
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville and Belgian co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul want to bounce back after a harsh run of results so far this season. Having led for extended periods in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, the crew heads to Mexico hoping to build on the impressive pace that they have displayed in the opening two rounds.
Neuville commented: “Mexico is a unique event and one which brings back happy memories of the team’s first WRC podium back in 2014. It is the first hot event of the season, which combined with the fact that the event takes place at such a high altitude, makes it special. It’s an enjoyable rally; we can really push because of the knowledge and experience we have from the previous seasons. We are confident that we can perform well. The car has already demonstrated what it can do in Monte and Sweden, so we have to go out there and show what we know we are capable of. We’re determined to fight back!”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
The Spanish pairing of Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí just missed out on a podium finish in Mexico last season, so will be aiming to rectify that this season. The duo enjoyed a solid run to fourth in Sweden but the gravel terrain and fiesta feel of Rally Mexico could allow them to go one better next weekend.
Sordo said: “I am excited about Rally Mexico because it is the first gravel event of the year and for our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. Thanks to the additional power that is present in the new car, it should be an even more spectacular rally than normal, as usually we would expect the performance to drop slightly as a result of the altitude. Making the transition from wintry conditions in Sweden to the warmer climate of Mexico is all part of life in the WRC. We have spent time preparing for the change, with the most important process being adapting our bodies. I am confident we can put ourselves in the podium fight.”
Rally Mexico 2017 at a Glance
The season’s first non-European and gravel event, Rally Mexico will take place over 19 stages and a competitive distance of 393.8km. The service park remains in sun-drenched León, around 400km north of Mexico City, with some of the warmest temperatures facing the crews being encountered in this area.
The event will get underway with a Super Special Stage at Mexico City’s Zócalo main square – known for its appearance during the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre – with more than 200,000 fans expected to attend. Friday’s itinerary see the crews take to the stunning scenery and thin air of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, before descending back down to the very depths for the Rally’s famous underground stage through former silver mine tunnels.
The rest of the weekend will see the action return to the León region, featuring new stages at Lajas de Oro on Saturday and La Calera on Sunday. Sunday’s live TV Power Stage at Derramadero will bring the event to a close.