The Ford Performance GT will make its track debut on Australian soil at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, showcasing Ford Performance innovation and engineering in one of the most advanced race cars it has ever built. Driven by none-other than Australian racing driver, and full-time Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Ryan Briscoe, the Le Mans-winning Ford GT will turn its first wheel in anger at the world-famous 6.213 kilometre circuit as a prelude to this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to put this amazing race car on such an iconic circuit,” said Ford Australian and New Zealand President and CEO, Kay Hart. “Innovation through design and engineering drives Ford Performance, and where better than Bathurst to introduce the Ford Performance GT to Australians.”

The Ford Performance GT race car is the culmination of years of Ford innovation in aerodynamics, lightweight carbonfibre construction and ultra-efficient EcoBoost engines, and serves as a test bed for new technologies and advanced lightweight materials that will benefit future Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles. With its carbonfibre teardrop-shaped body climbing the Mountain, it will be the most capable vehicle wearing a Ford badge to ever lap Mount Panorama.

“To have such an iconic vehicle in the Ford GT here – a car with strong success in some of the world’s greatest races – is something Australian fans will love, and it shows how highly regarded Bathurst is globally, and by Ford and Ford Performance,” said Supercars CEO, Sean Seamer.

The Ford GT’s simultaneous road and race-car development centred around three primary goals. At its core, the program provides a working training ground for Ford’s engineers to develop future engine technology and to expand their understanding of aerodynamics. On top of this, the challenge pushed the boundaries of advanced material usage, which has resulted in its teardrop body shape with carbonfibre buttresses, not possible if made of steel.

The Ford Performance IMSA GT Number 67 will be freighted to Australia for the first time, and will see Briscoe behind the wheel as part of the Ford Performance presence at this year’s Great Race. “To have Ryan, an Aussie who has driven with us many times at Bathurst, Sandown and on the Gold Coast, is the icing on the cake.”

Briscoe is well aware of this momentous occasion, and intends to take full advantage of a once-in-a-generation opportunity. “The Ford GT is an ultra-high-performance car, so I’m really excited and honoured to turn the Ford GT’s first laps at Bathurst” said Ryan Briscoe, who last raced in Australia’s premier motor race in 2013. “For me, Bathurst is one of the best, if not the best racing circuit in the world.”

The challenging layout will be another to add to the Ford GT’s list of iconic tracks, which so far this season has seen Briscoe and co-driver Richard Westbrook three-time winners following victory in Canada, Road America and the 2018 Rolex 24-hour at Daytona to build their championship campaign. "We know Ryan is excited to come back home to be part of such an historic occasion,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director Ford Performance Motorsports. “He's been an integral part of our success with the Ford GT in racing, and will certainly put on a good show for the fans."

Despite the familiarity with both the Ford GT and the circuit, putting the two together for the first time means that the Mountain will provide a fresh challenge for the Australian.

“Nothing quite compares to Bathurst,” said the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pilot. “Bathurst as a circuit demands the highest respect at all times. It has the intensity of a circuit like Indy, where its very high speed and you just always need to be 100-per cent focused,” he said. “Of all the circuits we race on, Bathurst is probably closest to Watkins Glen (New York), though, as they both have a very smooth, high-grip surface with a lot of high-speed corners.”

Mount Panorama will provide an even greater challenge than ‘The Glen’, as it’s known, with the steepest corner at the Australian track being The Cutting, with its 1-in-6 grade climb. “Watkins Glen doesn’t have near the elevation change that Mount Panorama has,” said Briscoe. “And while the downhill section of Bathurst is comparable to Laguna Seca, Laguna is a very low-grip track, so it’s different in that way.

In 2016, the GT made history with its triumphant debut at the Le Mans 24 hour, by claiming victory 50 years on from the Ford’s crushing 1-2-3 formation finish for the Ford GT40 in the 1966 race. In doing so, it achieved the primary goal of the Ford GT’s program. Fittingly, Ford’s legacy at Mount Panorama goes back to the event’s origins in the 1960s, and since then, Fords have claimed victory at Bathurst 19 times.

In 2019, Ford Performance will support the Ford Mustang’s entry into the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, which kicks off in March at the Adelaide 500.

The Ford Performance GT will be in action during the Supercars Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000, held over October 3-6, 2018.

Hyundai Motorsport has claimed its ninth podium finish of the 2018 World Rally Championship (WRC) on a dramatic final day at Rallye Deutschland, the ninth round of the season.

Belgians Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul took the runners-up position on a thrilling Sunday morning, which included two runs through the 29.07km Grafschaft stage, and the rally-ending Power Stage at Bosenberg.
 
The result sees Neuville increase his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 23 points over Sébastien Ogier but with Ott Tanak closing the gap to second place following his victory in Germany.

Hyundai Motorsport’s home event offered plenty of action throughout the weekend, and the final morning was certainly no different with many leading contenders retiring from the rally - including Spaniards Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio.

Going off into the vineyards in the opening Grafschaft stage, the time loss dropped the crew from second to seventh. However, the damage sustained to their Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC prevented them from continuing any further. As a result, Norwegians Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger inherited the team’s second points-scoring position in sixth place.

The allocation of points sees Hyundai Motorsport continue to lead the manufacturers’ championship but with a reduced 13-point gap over Toyota, who moves ahead of M-Sport Ford into second with four rallies remaining this season.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Stage win in SS16 Grafschaft 1, moved up to second place overall
  • Sixth podium of 2018 and one Power Stage point increased drivers’ championship lead


Neuville said: “It has been a challenging weekend so to come away with second is a job well done. I have been able to increase my lead in the drivers’ championship slightly, which was the objective. I was hoping to take a few more points in the Power Stage but unfortunately I made a mistake and had to reverse, so I took it steady after that. We have struggled with confidence and pace, even if we have been consistent over the weekend. Not an easy weekend but we’ve done what we needed. The championship battle is going to be closely fought right to the end of the season!”  
 
Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Tough weekend on German tarmac for Norwegians
  • Sixth place picks up valuable points for the championship


Mikkelsen said: “This weekend has been one of experimentation with the car, trying to adapt the settings and my driving style to match the demands of these tarmac stages. We have found some things that have given us a positive feeling but there have also been things that worked less well. To get a top-six finish is not too bad considering. We didn’t take any risks at all in the Power Stage because these points are too important for the manufacturers’ championship. When you don’t feel completely comfortable, it’s easy to make a mistake when you push. We have a lot of homework to take away from this weekend, to prepare for the tarmac stages in Spain. For now, I am looking forward to getting back on gravel where I feel more confident with the car.”

Crew Notes: Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Spaniards started Sunday in second position
  • Incident in opening Grafschaft stage forced the crew’s retirement


Sordo said: “I am incredibly disappointed for the team and for myself. We had put ourselves into a strong position after Saturday’s stages and the car this morning - in the first kilometres - felt amazing with lots of grip. I had a lot of confidence. I was a bit late braking into a corner with some gravel in the road that sent us wide into the vineyards. The windscreen was completely smashed and there was some damage to the radiator. We tried to repair it but the temperatures were too high to continue. In any case, our rally was already over with the time lost in the stage. We take comfort from knowing we were able to fight for the podium. The speed was there, but the result this time was not. I can now only look forward to my home event in Catalunya in October.”  

Holding on at home

  • Ninth individual podium of 2018 for Hyundai Motorsport
  • Team holds reduced advantage in Manufacturers’ Championship, 13 ahead of Toyota

 
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I am pleased that we have been able to secure a podium result in our home rally in Germany. It was an eventful final morning, which unfortunately included a retirement for Dani and Carlos, ending their own podium charge. It was a pity for them after a strong weekend. Thierry and Nicolas were there to pick up the position with Andreas and Anders also moving up to sixth. It has not been the ideal weekend for us but it was not too bad. Second is a good result and even if we have lost some ground there is a lot more to come this season. We now shift focus to the next event in Turkey, a rally that will be new to everyone. It remains a challenging – and exciting – championship.”  
 
Next Rally - Turkey

  • The tenth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship takes place in Turkey from 13-16 September
  • A gravel event, it will be Hyundai Motorsport’s first visit to the country, as Rally Turkey makes a return to the WRC for the first time since 2010
  • That said, the stages are completely new to all competitors as the WRC has never been to the region of Marmaris before – it’s a voyage into the unknown!

Final Overall Classification – Rallye Deutschland

1

O. Tänak

M. Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

3:03:36.9

2

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+39.2

3

E. Lappi

J. Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

+1:00.9

4

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

+1:34.5

5

T. Suninen

M. Markkula

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:02.9

6

A. Mikkelsen

A. Jæger

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+2:13.8

 

Hyundai i30 N TCR customers enjoyed their most successful showing yet last weekend (14-15 July), with the car claiming a total of 10 podiums across three championships.

Double win for i30 N TCR to close FIA WTCR European season
i30 N TCR customers BRC Racing Team lead the FIA World Touring Car Cup points’ standings after the three most recent races at the Slovakia Ring (July 13-15). The outfit’s two drivers - Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz - claimed a victory each from the weekend.

Tarquini scored his victory in Race 2, following up his pole position and third place in the opening contest, while Michelisz claimed his first win at the wheel of the i30 N TCR in dominant fashion in Race 3 – completing the Grand Slam of pole position, fastest lap and victory as he led every lap on the Sunday finale.

He was nearly joined on the Race 3 podium by MRacing driver Thed Björk, who fought through the field after a difficult qualifying session to cross the line in fourth place only a fraction of a second away from snatching third.

Not only does the BRC squad now lead the teams’ championship, but, courtesy of his Race 2 success, Tarquini also leads the drivers’ standings from MRacing owner/driver Yvan Muller. Muller himself finished in third place in Race 2 to put two i30 N TCR on the podium, however, he now trails Tarquini by the narrow margin of two points as teams and drivers now prepare for the summer break, and the four fly-away events that complete the inaugural FIA WTCR season.

i30 N TCR claims another 1-2 in the USA
In the TCR class of the Pirelli World Challenge the Hyundai America supported Bryan Herta Autosport team delivered a fifth win from seven attempts in the first race of the annual Rose Cup weekend at Portland International Raceway (13-15 July). After missing out on pole position teammates Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis made the decisive moves while lapping slower cars to make their way into first and second respectively, scoring a fourth 1-2 of the season for the i30 N TCR.

In Race 2 Lewis was able to match the pace of the race leader, but could find no way past leader around the 3,1 kilometre circuit scoring consecutive second positions on the weekend to bring his personal tally of 2018 podiums to seven, after eight races of the season.

Hyundai fight at the front of TCR Italy
The i30 N TCR was also at the front of the pack in TCR Italy at Mugello (13-15 July). For the start of the opening race the front row of the grid was made up of two Hyundai – Pit Lane Competizione’s Nicola Baldan on pole position with Eric Scalvini, representing BRC Racing Team, alongside. After the start both were soon part of the fight for first, with both men taking the lead at different points during the battle.

Baldan’s was the last to mount a challenge for the win, with a final lap move that ended with a drag race to the line, and a winning margin of just 0.04 seconds. While he celebrated from the second step of the podium, Scalvini took the silverware for third. Federico Paolino, aboard the second of the BRC Racing Team entries took points for eighth position.

Baldan completed his result in Race 2, springing from seventh on the reverse grid to finish the opening lap in fourth, from where he was able to mount a challenge for the lead following a Safety Car period after a first lap incident. Scalvini had to take evasive action in the fracas, limiting him to only ninth placed finish while his teammate crossed the line in seventh.

Hyundai customers sweep TCR Europe’s Hungarian weekend
i30 N TCR drivers won both races at the fourth round of the TCR Europe championship at the Hungaroring (7-8 July), beating an incredibly competitive field in the process. In the opening event Target Competition’s Dušan Borković scored a third win of the season. The Serbian driver came out on top of a four-way battle for the lead, making up places after qualifying fourth in a difficult session on a wet track. He now lays only a single point behind the championship leader, with the second half of the season remaining.

In Race 2 at the Hungarian track Francisco Mora powered from Pole Position to take a first win at the wheel of an i30 N TCR. He was joined in his podium celebrations by his M1RA teammate Daniel Nagy, who finished second to complete a 1-2 for the squad at the home event. For Nagy, who also scored two podiums at the circuit as a WTCR Wildcard entry in a Hyundai earlier in the season, the second place completed a hugely successful weekend. He was the only man to stand on the podium at the end of both contests - after finishing third in Race 1 - and together the results cemented his third place in the championship, and mean that he will start the final six races of the season as part of the fight for the title.

After being one of those to struggle for a clean lap in qualifying Target driver Kris Richard was able to rely on the race pace of his i30 N TCR to score good points, recording a fifth in Race 1 and seventh in Race 2. In the second encounter he crossed the line one place behind his teammate Reece Barr who continues to show great pace in the car, despite his relative lack of experience in TCR machinery.

The seven Hyundai customer drivers at the event were completed by Igor Stefanovski and Cedric Piro, the latter making his debut in the car run by the Autodis by Piro Sport team.

Hyundai Motorsport has taken a dramatic victory in Rally Italia Sardegna, the seventh round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), as Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul stole a last gasp win with a sublime performance on the final morning.

The Belgian crew started the day with a 3.9-second deficit to leader M-Sport Ford’s Sébastien Ogier, but a perfect Sunday morning with four stage wins, including the Power Stage, allowed them to steadily catch and pass the Frenchman.

They took a memorable result by a mere 0.7-seconds after 313.46km of competitive Sardinian stages. In one of the closest finishes in WRC history, it actually matches the same minuscule gap by which Neuville beat Elfyn Evans in the 2017 edition of Rally Argentina.

The result is Hyundai Motorsport’s third win of the 2018 season and tenth in its WRC history. It marks the team’s second victory in Rally Italia Sardegna following Neuville’s triumph in 2016, and the fourth Sardinia event in succession where it has finished on the podium.

Sunday celebrations
Four stages were contested on Sunday morning with two runs through the 14.06km Cala Flumini and 6.96km coastal Sassari-Argentiera tests. There was no respite for any of the crews with tense battles throughout the field. While Neuville and Ogier battled it out at the front, Hayden Paddon was able to defend his fourth place from Mads Østberg with a solid Sunday, securing his best result of the season so far.

One-time rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen wrestled two consolatory driver points for finishing fourth in the nerve-wracking and competitive Power Stage.

With this victory, Hyundai Motorsport has extended its grip on the manufacturers’ championship with 212 points, an increased gap of 28 points to M-Sport Ford in second. Neuville’s five additional points for Power Stage success saw him take the maximum available for the weekend and increase his lead in the drivers’ classification to 27 points over Ogier.

Since its WRC debut in 2014, Hyundai Motorsport has now taken ten victories and a total of 40 individual podiums. As the 2018 season passes its halfway mark, the team now heads into the summer break with an opportunity to reflect on a hugely successful season-to-date.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Third win of 2018 season with six consecutive stage wins from SS15 to the SS20 Power stage
  • Increases drivers’ championship lead taking maximum 30 points on offer

Neuville said: “I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien. The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory. Nicolas and I send massive thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us a great car this weekend. Without them we couldn’t have done this today. Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Fourth place represents crew’s best result of 2018 season so far
  • Highest finish in Sardinia since second place in 2015

Paddon said: “A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team. We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown. Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the whole team for a fantastic victory.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Led rally on Friday morning before transmission trouble
  • Two consolation points for fourth place in the Power Stage

Mikkelsen said: “We gave it all we could in the Power Stage to try and salvage something from what has been a frustrating weekend. Since the last rally, we have found a much better feeling from inside the car but we haven’t had the results to match. On Friday morning, we could show the potential we have with some strong times and leading the rally. Unfortunately, the transmission problem ended our rally and we’ve spent the remaining stages just refining things and picking up useful information about the car on these tough gravel stages. It is all valuable learning but we leave Sardinia with a feeling of missed opportunity. We will regroup over the summer break and be ready for Finland. Finally, congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on an outstanding win this weekend.”  

Sardinian success story

  • 11 stage wins for Hyundai Motorsport crews in Sardinia
  • Third victory of 2018 and tenth in team’s WRC history

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I am completely delighted, as are all members of the team, with this incredible victory. It was truly a perfect win for Thierry and Nicolas. The battle with Ogier started on Saturday and the intensity of that only increased. I was on the edge of my seat all Sunday morning, and the Power Stage was a superb piece of entertainment for all fans. To take our third win of the season in such exhilarating style is the ideal way to head into the summer break. We have had a faultless operation all weekend, thanks to the hard work of our team on site and in Alzenau. Hayden and Seb have taken their best result of the season in fourth, while Andreas also picked up some points in the Power Stage. It was a memorable battle with Sébastien and M-Sport Ford which will undoubtedly go down in the WRC history books. We came here hoping to defend our lead of both championships but instead we have extended it – the perfect weekend!” 

Next rally

  • The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) heads into its summer break with the next round, Rally Finland, taking place from 26-29 July
  • Round 8 of the 2018 season will be the last of four consecutive gravel events before moving back onto tarmac

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

3:29:18.7

2

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

+0.7

3

E. Lappi

J. Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

+1:56.3

4

H. Paddon

S. Marshall

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+2:55.2

5

M. Østberg

T. Eriksen

Citroën C3 WRC

+3:10.9

6

C. Breen

S. Martin

Citroën C3 WRC

+4:31.7

7

J.M. Latvala

M. Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

+11:22.1

8

O. Tänak

M. Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

+12:38.2

9

J. Kopecky

P. Dresler

Škoda Fabia R5

+13:14.6

10

T. Suninen

M. Markkula

Ford Fiesta WRC

+15:30.4

Australia’s own racing drivers won two of the most prestigious motor racing events this weekend with Daniel Ricciardo snatching the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix while down on power for more than 50 laps of the unforgiving street circuit. Ricciardo had started from pole after smashing the circuit record in final qualifying. Sebastian Vettel was next nearly eight seconds behind followed by Lewis Hamilton in third spot.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Will Power won his first career Indianapolis 500 after taking the lead from Stefan Wilson with less than five laps to go. Power started third on the front row and ran out front most of the race.

Danica Patrick's professional driving career ended after crashing out on Lap 67. Patrick started the race seventh and ran inside the top 16 before getting loose and hitting the wall. The 36-year-old was able to climb out of the car under her own power before making a visit to the medical centre.

British driver Kris Meeke’s future in the FIA World Rally Championship is in doubt after the official Citroën team dropped him from the remainder of the 2018 season, citing “an excessively high number of crashes”.

Team principal Pierre Budar said the stunning decision was a preventative measure for the safety of Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, who were lucky to escape a violent crash on last weekend’s Rally Portugal.

The pair’s Citroën C3 went off the road and into trees at high speed on Saturday afternoon. He and Nagle weren’t injured, but the car was destroyed.

The most dramatic move in the WRC season so far means Meeke won’t contest Rally Italia Sardegna on 7-10 June, where Citroën will be represented by Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen.

The team said it would shortly announce its line-up for the remainder of the season, including Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 15-19 November. Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb has one more appearance scheduled in his three-event comeback programme with Citroën, in Spain in October.

A team statement from its base near Paris on Thursday afternoon said: “Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety, and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.”

Pierre Budar added: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects (sic) a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”

Citroën did not say if Meeke would be involved with the team after this year.

Mentored by the late world champion Colin McRae, the Ulsterman, now 38, got his chance with the WRC elite when he joined Citroën late in 2013, just in time for Rally Australia. Blazing speed netted victories in Argentina in 2015, Portugal and Finland in 2016 and Mexico and Spain in 2017; his Finnish win was the first by a British driver.

But his talent seemed too often compromised by crashes. Last year, although he won in Mexico, a disappointing mid-season run of results led to him being benched in Poland.

Meeke contested Rally Australia in 2013 (retired), 2014 (4th), 2015 (3rd) and last year (7th).

BRITISH driver Kris Meeke’s future in the FIA World Rally Championship is in doubt after the official Citroën team dropped him from the remainder of the 2018 season, citing “an excessively high number of crashes”.
 
Team principal Pierre Budar said the stunning decision was a preventative measure for the safety of Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle, who were lucky to escape a violent crash on last weekend’s Rally Portugal.
 
The pair’s Citroën C3 went off the road and into trees at high speed on Saturday afternoon. He and Nagle weren’t injured, but the car was destroyed.
 
The most dramatic move in the WRC season so far means Meeke won’t contest Rally Italia Sardegna on 7-10 June, where Citroën will be represented by Craig Breen/Scott Martin and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen.
 
The team said it would shortly announce its line-up for the remainder of the season, including Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 15-19 November. Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb has one more appearance scheduled in his three-event comeback programme with Citroën, in Spain in October.
 
A team statement from its base near Paris on Thursday afternoon said: “Due to an excessively high number of crashes, some of which were particularly heavy and could have had serious consequences with regard to the crew’s safety, and given that the risks involved were unjustified by the sporting stakes at play, Citroën Racing WRT has decided to terminate the participation of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the 2018 WRC.”
 
Pierre Budar added: “This wasn’t an easy decision to make because it effects (sic) a driver and a co-driver, but it is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as Team Principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure.”
 
Citroën did not say if Meeke would be involved with the team after this year.
 
Mentored by the late world champion Colin McRae, the Ulsterman, now 38, got his chance with the WRC elite when he joined Citroën late in 2013, just in time for Rally Australia. Blazing speed netted victories in Argentina in 2015, Portugal and Finland in 2016 and Mexico and Spain in 2017; his Finnish win was the first by a British driver.
 
But his talent seemed too often compromised by crashes. Last year, although he won in Mexico, a disappointing mid-season run of results led to him being benched in Poland.
 
Meeke contested Rally Australia in 2013 (retired), 2014 (4th), 2015 (3rd) and last year (7th).

Thierry Neuville has raced back into the lead in the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship after winning a gruelling Vodafone Rally de Portugal on the weekend.

Victory at the sixth round of the WRC in northern Portugal promoted Neuville to the top of the drivers’ standings for the second time this year as the series approaches its midpoint. After starting 10 points behind reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, the Belgian left Portugal 19 points ahead and with his Hyundai team still leading the manufacturers’ standings.

Neuville won by 40 seconds over M-Sport teammates Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen, steering his Hyundai i20 away from trouble during four days of attrition that sidelined many frontrunners.

Ogier and fellow title challenger Ott Tänak were among drivers who ended pointless after falling foul of Friday’s rock-strewn stages. Kiwi Hayden Paddon’s return to Hyundai after 11 weeks on the bench started with victory on stage two but ended abruptly with a crash later in the day that ended his rally.

Neuville hit the front near the end of Friday’s first leg after the lead changed hands six times in a frantic opening. He doubled his advantage on Saturday and pressed it home on Sunday by claiming four bonus points in the closing Power Stage to secure his second win of the year.

“It was a clever approach all weekend. I had a fantastic car which was working well and I felt comfortable,” he said. “We can be proud of what we achieved here There are a lot of Portuguese mechanics in the team and I think the party is going to be big tonight.”

Second for Evans eased the pressure after a disappointing season and teammate Suninen helped erase the frustration of Ogier’s blank weekend in the M-Sport Ford squad by claiming his maiden podium. He finished 7.3sec behind the Welshman.

Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo in an intense fight for the final podium place. Lappi was 7.4sec adrift of his fellow Finn in a Toyota Yaris with Spaniard Sordo 6.2sec further back in his Hyundai. Sordo went to bed on Saturday night in third but woke on Sunday morning in fourth after receiving a 10sec penalty for dislodging two bales on a Porto street stage roundabout on Friday night.

Round seven promises a high-summer shootout on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The all-gravel Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Alghero on 8-10 June.

Results, Vodafone Rally de Portugal (WRC round 6 of 13):

1) Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3h49m46.6s
2) Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +40.0s
3) Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +47.3s
4) Dani Sordo/Carlos Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m00.9s
5) Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m04.7s
6) Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m33.5s
7) Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +5m23.0s
8) Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +14m10.8s
9) Lukasz Pieniazek/Przemyslaw Mazur (Skoda Fabia R5) +16m17.3s
10) Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 R5) +16m34.3s

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.