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 Motorsport has completed the 23-stage Rally Finland, round eight of the 13-event 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with a fourth placed finish for Hayden Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall. It equals the team’s best-ever result in Finland.

Starting as one of the first on the road for the entire weekend, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul adopted a defensive strategy to minimise the points loss to championship rival Sébastien Ogier. A ninth-place finish for the Belgians saw them drop just six points to the M-Sport crew, with Neuville still leading the drivers’ table by 21 points.

Andreas Mikkelsen and birthday boy Anders Jæger opened Sunday’s four stages, just as they did on Saturday, using the opportunity to learn more about the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on the fast and flowing Finnish roads. They were classified in tenth overall.

Sunday’s itinerary saw a repeat loop of the 11.74km Laukaa and 11.12km Ruuhimäki stages. With all eyes on the battle for the podium, the only real drama occurred when the Toyota of Esapekka Lappi went off in SS20 (Laukaa 1), elevating Paddon into fourth place.

Rally Finland has never been a strong event for Hyundai Motorsport, the team, however, has taken enough points to retain its lead of the manufacturers’ championship with a 26-point buffer over M-Sport and 27 ahead of the rally-winning Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
 
Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Strong performance with 16 top-five stage times
  • Second consecutive fourth place finish after Sardinia

Paddon said: “On the whole, I’m really happy with the weekend. We have been able to keep pace with some of the event favourites, maintaining a consistent performance. Naturally, we would have preferred to score a podium, of course, but we took a measured approach to secure important points for the manufacturers’ championship. The final morning was all about taking it easy to bring the car home with a comfortable gap behind us. I’ve really enjoyed the stages this weekend, the car has been a joy to drive and it has given me the confidence I need. We are back on the right track.”
 
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Championship leader followed sensible strategy to minimise loss to Ogier
  • Secured two extra points in the Power Stage with spectacular jumps through Ruuhimäki

Neuville said: “Road position has really dictated a lot this weekend. Even without our mistake on Friday, when we misread a pace note, I don’t think we would have been any higher up the classification. We have had to accept our limits and focus on completing each stage with no further trouble. The main target was not losing too many points to Ogier, which we did to the best of our ability. We could only control what’s in our hands. We gave it everything we could in the Power Stage and it was good to take a couple of extra points. Overall we have done our best, the team has done a good job and we can be proud of ourselves. We now look ahead to the team’s home event in Germany.”
 
Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Tough weekend for the Norwegian crew, unable to mount a challenge after Friday incident
  • Used the rally to build more confidence on high-speed stages

Mikkelsen said: “A difficult weekend for us. Any chance we might have had to feature further up the order was spoiled with our time loss on Friday morning’s loop. Losing three minutes due to a pace note error was just what we didn’t need, and it meant we were penalised as first on the road for Saturday and again this morning. We have had to avoid any unnecessary risks and use this event as a way of better understanding the car in these conditions but I’m sure we’ll be back on pace in Germany.” 
 
Picking up the pieces
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I don’t think we could have done much more this weekend. We knew we would face strong competition from crews who are always competitive on the Finnish stages. Congratulations to Ott, for an outstanding performance. Hayden and Seb had a positive event, doing all that we asked of them to score important points of the manufacturers’ championship. We’ve come to see fourth place here as a pretty decent result! Considering their road positions, there wasn’t much more Thierry and Andreas could have done. It’s been a character-building weekend and they’ve shown maturity in a frustrating situation. We now move onto our own home event, Rallye Deutschland, which brings an entirely different set of challenges – and hopefully opportunities.”
 
Next Rally

  • The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship moves back to tarmac for the next round of the season, Rallye Deutschland, which takes place 16-19 August
  • A home event for the Alzenau-based Hyundai Motorsport team, the rally holds special memories from the team’s maiden WRC victory back in 2014.

Final Overall Classification – Rally Finland


1

O. Tänak

M. Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

2:13:18.2

2

M. Østberg

T. Eriksen

Citroën C3 WRC

+32.7

3

J.M. Latvala

M. Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

+35.5

4

H. Paddon

S. Marshall

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+1:35.6

5

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:15.0

6

T. Suninen

M. Markkula

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:19.2

7

E. Evans

D. Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:29.5

8

C. Breen

S. Martin

Citroën C3 WRC

+3:08.4

9

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+3:51.8

10

A. Mikkelsen

A. Jæger

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+8:37.4

 

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

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

Hyundai Motorsport has completed a challenging weekend on the tarmac terrain of Tour de Corse, the fourth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, with a podium finish as Thierry Neuville secured third place.

The team saw all three of its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars inside the top-seven with Dani Sordo in fourth and Andreas Mikkelsen in seventh overall after a demanding event.

Sunday’s itinerary included the monster 55.17km Vero – Sarrola – Carcopino stage, followed by the 16.25km Power Stage around the former prison at Coti-Chiavari. It was another tough day on the Corsican tarmac for the three crews who have struggled for pace and performance on the tight and twisty stages this weekend.

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul were focused on securing third place on the final morning but ran into difficulty on the long opening stage, damaging their rear-left wheel. An undiagnosed engine-related issue prevented them from pushing in the Power Stage, but the Belgians were still able to confirm their third consecutive Corsican podium.

With manufacturer points awarded for the two highest placed crews in a team, Hyundai Motorsport continues to lead the championship with a reduced four-point advantage over the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.

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

  • Belgians claim second podium finish of 2018
  • Neuville retains second in drivers’ championship with 17-point gap to Ogier

Neuville said: “It’s good to finish on the podium but there has been a bit of frustration over the weekend. We haven’t been able to match the times of the front-runners, even if we tried really hard. We have to be content with the results we have achieved, securing a podium and important points for the manufacturers’ championship. In general, I am pleased with the final result but in terms of outright performance we were just not on the pace this weekend.”

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

  • Fourth place for the Spaniards moves Sordo to eighth in drivers’ table
  • 12 points scored for the manufacturers’ championship

Sordo said: “Our end result is not too bad considering the disappointing weekend we have had in Corsica. We have just not been able to find the speed and performance needed to tackle these roads. It was a similar story on Sunday; we have pushed as hard as we can but the times have not been there. Still, fourth place gives us important points for the championship so that’s something positive we can take away. Now we need to work together as a team to get more speed on tarmac for later in the season.”

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

  • Mikkelsen battles to seventh overall and holds fourth in drivers’ championship
  • Norwegians will seek to find more tarmac experience with Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Mikkelsen said: Absolutely not the result we wanted and a very difficult weekend overall. We made some more set-up changes for Sunday morning’s two stages but unfortunately we couldn’t find the breakthrough that we needed. It has been a challenging rally but we know that we have to do to gain more experience with this car on tarmac. We need more mileage to understand where we can find more performance from ourselves and from the car. We have some time before the next asphalt event in Germany, so we have to put in lots of effort to make the improvements we need. That’s the homework we are taking from this weekend.”

Tough at the top
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: Starting with the positives, we have registered our fourth individual podium result of the season with Thierry in third place. With Dani able to finish one place behind, we have added some important championship points, helping us to retain our lead. It’s still incredibly close, as I think it will continue to be all season. We can’t afford to have difficult weekends like this too often, so we will have to regroup and work harder to improve our performance on tarmac. It wasn’t a trouble-free final morning, unfortunately, with Thierry experiencing issues on the Power Stage with only three cylinders. We have to investigate this to understand what caused it. There are lots of lessons for us to learn from this rally.”     

Next Rally

  • Rally Argentina takes place from April 26-29, returning to the scene of a memorable Hyundai Motorsport win from 2017
  • The 18-stage gravel event will be the fifth rally of the 13-round WRC season


Final Overall Classification - Tour de Corse

1

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

3:26:52.7

2

O. Tänak

M. Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

+36.1

3

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+1:07.5

4

D. Sordo

C. del Barrio

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+2:02.6

5

E. Evans

P. Mills

Ford Fiesta WRC

+2:06.1

6

E. Lappi

J. Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

+2:33.5

7

A. Mikkelsen

A. Jæger

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+2:43.4

8

J. Kopecky

P. Dresler

Škoda Fabia R5

+10:34.8

9

K. Meeke

P. Nagle

Citroën C3 WRC

+10:40.5

10

Y. Bonato

B. Boulloud

Citroën C3 R5

+12:26.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copeland was understandably thrilled with the result.

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

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

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

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


2018 Targa North West – Provisional results

Outright:

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


GT2:

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


GT4:

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


Shannons Classic:

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


Shannons Classic GT:

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


Duttons Garage Early Modern:

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


GT Sports Trophy:

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


TSD Trophy:

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

Hyundai Motorsport aims to reassert its FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) credentials when the 2018 season gets underway at the opening event in Monte-Carlo later this month (25-28 January). On the back of its most successful campaign in WRC to date in 2017, the team has raised the bar even further for its fifth season, with its sights set on a renewed challenge for both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.

Hyundai Motorsport played an integral part in last year’s WRC, taking four victories and finishing a close second in both titles. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC proved itself to be a versatile contender, triumphing on gravel and tarmac, but the team was left ruing missed opportunities.

WRC’s sporting and technical regulations will remain largely unchanged for the coming season offering continuity to teams and crews as they prepare for another closely fought battle.

For Hyundai Motorsport, the rally winning Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has been updated for the coming season in pursuit of a competitive edge. 2017 resulted in an intense and thrilling battle across all participating manufacturers in WRC, with the forthcoming season promising to reignite close rivalries between Hyundai, Ford, Toyota and Citroën.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We head into our fifth season in the WRC in high spirits and with even stronger ambitions to fight for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships. We came close in 2017 but we also recognise where we fell short in terms of our performance and consistency. We aim to rectify that this season. There are no revolutionary changes to the regulations this year so all teams will be building on last year’s foundations. We are very respectful of our rivals. Their performances only serve to make us try to improve ourselves from one event to the next. This is what drives us forward, as we work towards our ultimate championship goals.”

Competing under the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team banner in 2018, the team will field three of its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars in each of the 13 rallies on the calendar. Four crews will contribute to the team’s championship efforts: Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall.

Mikkelsen and Neuville will contest all rounds in the #4 and #5 cars respectively, while Sordo and Paddon will share the #6 car, each competing in selected rounds. Neuville was unquestionably one of the stars of last season, taking the most victories and stage wins of any WRC driver. The Belgian finished second only to Sébastien Ogier in the overall standings, for the second year running, and now has his eyes on a bigger prize in 2018.

Neuville said: “We might not have achieved the championship titles last season, but there was plenty to celebrate. We wanted to be in the fight and we definitely achieved that in many rallies. Taking four wins and being competitive in many other events gives us a real motivation to go one better in 2018. As a team, we have kept getting stronger and stronger with each season. Entering our fifth year, I feel that it’s our time to shine but we know our rivals will be tough to beat. If anything, that gives us even more determination. We have a good car in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, and the team has worked hard over the winter to further improve its performance potential. Our team spirit is very high so we have to harness that and perform at our best, consistently.”

Mikkelsen joined Hyundai Motorsport for the final three rounds of 2017, making an immediately positive impression. Leading Rally de España at the end of the opening day, heads turned at the Norwegian’s swift adaptation to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. A near podium in Wales Rally GB reinforced his potential ahead of a full season campaign in 2018.

Mikkelsen commented: “This is the moment I have been waiting for: the start of full championship campaign with Hyundai Motorsport! The final three rounds of last season were very useful for Anders and myself to get acquainted with the team and with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It was time well spent because I feel we are now ready to attack with confidence. The car proved to be quick on a variety of surfaces and that will hopefully serve us well this season. That’s not to say we are taking anything for granted! WRC is in great shape with lots of strong manufacturers and crews ready for battle. What happens when the gloves come off is anyone’s guess, so we have to be prepared.”

Sordo, who has been part of the Hyundai Motorsport team since 2014, scored two podiums last year, in Corsica and Portugal. The Spaniard will continue to be a trusted pair of hands for the team’s championship challenge at selected events in 2018, starting with Rallye Monte-Carlo, alongside new co-driver Carlos del Barrio.

Sordo said: “Although I am not taking part in the complete WRC season, I feel very loyal to my Hyundai Motorsport family and will do everything I can to support our push for the manufacturers’ title. We showed last year that when everything works well together as a unit, we could achieve really positive results. I have seen how much the team has grown since our first season back in 2014; the progress has been incredible. This year, I am 100 per cent committed to giving everything I have in the rallies I join, starting with Monte-Carlo.”

A difficult 2017 season for Paddon ended on a positive note with a podium result at Rally Australia. It was his second top-three finish of the year after finishing second in Rally Poland. The New Zealander will share the #6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC this season, with his first event scheduled for Rally Sweden.

Paddon commented: “I am treating the 2018 season almost like a fresh start after our difficulties from last year. I want to put that behind me and use the positives from our podium results to spur us on to achieve what I know we are capable of. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer to contest the full season but I have to accept things like this and make the most of each opportunity we get throughout the year. Of course we will do everything in our power to help the team towards the manufacturers’ title and we will be out to fight for podiums on each gravel event. 2018 is a reset to get back to our best and I cannot wait to get back in the car for our first event of the season at Sweden.”

The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship will be formally launched on Thursday, 11 January at a special event at the Autosport International show in Birmingham, UK. All WRC teams and crews will be present to show off their 2018 challengers. The season itself will get underway later in January with Rallye Monte-Carlo. The only significant change to the calendar for this season is the addition of Rally Turkey in September, which replaces to outgoing Rally Poland to maintain a 13-event schedule.

Thierry Neuville has survived chaotic last-minute conditions to record his first Kennards Hire Rally Australia victory. Neuville had an early scare as torrential rain made the morning stages almost undriveable but he was able to pull clear when it counted to supply Hyundai with a perfect end to the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship season.

Jari-Matti Latvala’s pursuit of Neuville from second place ended dramatically when his Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris crashed into trees after sliding wide on a fast left-hand corner on the 20th and final stage in the Wedding Bells State forest. The uninjured but distraught Finn retired on the spot, elevating M-Sport driver Ott Tanak to second place in a Ford Fiesta and a surprised New Zealander Hayden Paddon to third in another Hyundai.

Five-times World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport) won the points-paying Power Stage that closed the rally and the season and finished fourth after a weekend beset with problems.

The 29-year-old Neuville recorded his fourth victory of the season, double Ogier’s score in achieving his fifth straight drivers’ world championship last month. He also hoisted his 54th special stage win of the 2017 season in the first run through Wedding Bells this morning, astonishingly also more than double Ogier‘s score.

Neuville had started the day more than 20sec ahead of Latvala but saw this halved after rain - described by Citroen driver Kris Meeke as “horrendous” – dumped on the second test, Bucca. The conditions affected other parts of the course and organisers cancelled the penultimate stage, Pilbara Reverse, leaving Latvala with too little time and distance to continue his charge.

In a post-event press conference, Neuville said the season’s achievements made he and the Hyundai Motorsport team feel like World Champions, even though they missed the title because of early mistakes and problems.

“This one is a special one and really goes to the whole team of Hyundai Motorsport,” he said, admitting Latvala had been close enough today to challenge for the win. “We are not World Champions, but we drove like World Champions. Every morning when you see Jari-Matti doing his push-ups you know that he’s going for a big attack.

“He did it this morning and he will not give up and try until the very end. There was a real opportunity for him to get the first place, so we had to resist in a clever way but not taking too much risk in the tricky conditions.”

While Latvala’s run finished bitterly, Tanak completed his M-Sport tenure with a solid performance before switching to the Tommi Makinen-run Toyota outfit in 2018.

“It’s important to finish the season like this. It was quite difficult to think about this (finishing second) on Friday as I was not comfortable in the car,” Tanak said. Paddon managed to take some positives away from his most difficult season in rallying. “On speed alone we didn’t deserve a podium this weekend,” the New Zealander said.

“When the rain came we knew it would be very, very tricky. We had a bit of an idea of what to expect and took it nice and easy to look after our position. So it was a nice way to finish what was a pretty trying year.”

Rally Great Britain winner Elfyn Evans was fifth ahead of Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi. Kris Meeke, who re-entered under Rally 2 rules after suffering a broken suspension yesterday, was seventh.

Australians Richie Dalton (Skoda), Nathan Quinn (Mitsubishi) and Dean Herridge (Subaru) completed the top 10 in a field of 78 starters. Quinn won the CAMS Australian Rally Championship, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 called “Shirley”, so named he says because the car has had more hits in its 10-year competition career than the famous singer Shirley Bassey.