Thierry Neuville has outlasted his competitors at Rally Germany to register his first WRC win and, of course, the first rally victory for Hyundai Motorsport as well. The 26-year-old Belgian was the fourth driver to take the lead on the tarmac roads of the Moselle wine region and the only one not to crash out of contention.
Defending world champion Sebastien Ogier was the first to retire when he careered through a barrier at high speed early in Saturday. He and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were very lucky to escape with no injury.
Ogier’s demise handed a relatively comfortable lead to Jari-Matti Latavala who was chasing his first WRC victory on tarmac. Alas on Sunday morning the Finn lost control on the opening stage and sent his car deep into picturesque vineyards. Kris Meeke was the next to take the lead hoping to post a best possible result for Citroën, but he too crashed out shortly after Latvala.
And so Neuville was the last man standing as it were. Rounding out a great rally for Hyundai was the fact Dani Sordo finished in P2, 40.7 seconds behind his team leader. A 1–2 result is an oustanding way for the Korean manufacturer to post its first WRC victory.
Latvala will rue his missed opportunity to close the gap on Ogier in the championship title race. He is still 44 points behind Ogier but could have cut that gap to as few as 16 points with the win and three bonus points.
None of that will concern Neuville and a beaming Nicloas Gilsoul who will be celebrating their maiden WRC win long into the night.
UPDATE: Hyundai’s official reaction to the win has been added below along with a Day 3 highlights video.
Hyundai Shell World Rally Team celebrate historic 1-2 at home in Rallye Deutschland.
- The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has today claimed its maiden victory in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with an historic 1-2 in Rallye Deutschland, its ninth WRC event.
August 24, 2014 – The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has today scored a sensational maiden victory in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with Thierry Neuville leading team-mate Dani Sordo home for an historic 1-2 finish in only the team’s ninth WRC event.
The team, run by Hyundai Motorsport from its factory in Alzenau, around 225km from Rallye Deutschland’s service park in Trier, has only been in existence for 18 months so today’s result is even more poignant.
The script for this weekend’s rally was straight out of a fairy tale: from a major crash in shakedown on Thursday that threatened Neuville’s participation in the event, the mechanics working a remarkable 18 hour shift to fix the car in time for Friday morning’s start to winning the team’s debut WRC event on Sunday afternoon. It has been a dramatic rally but one from which the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has emerged victorious.
Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) put the drama of shakedown firmly behind him when the stages got underway on Friday morning. The Belgian has not put a foot wrong since and has determinedly made his way up through the classification since the opening day. He was fully in contention for a podium at the start of Sunday, embroiled in a close battle for second but the retirements of the two leading cars in consecutive stages elevated the Belgian to the rally lead. Neuville then kept his focus to bring the #7 Hyundai i20 WRC car home for the win – his first in WRC. The Belgian brings home also two extra points for being second fastest in the Power Stage – the last stage of the rally.
Neuville said: “I am really happy for the entire Hyundai Shell World Rally Team and everyone back at the factory in Alzenau. Everyone has worked so hard in the past year to get us to where we are this season so to celebrate my debut WRC win with them is very special. It is even better that we have a 1-2 in our home event. I am particularly thankful for the team’s hard work this weekend. They did a fantastic job after our roll on Thursday to get the car repaired which makes this result more incredible. We have had three competitive days and we have been able to put the pressure on. Of course, it was a shame to see Jari Matti (Latvala) and Kris (Meeke) retire this morning, but that reinforced the need for us to remain focussed and concentrated. The conditions were very difficult so we had to take it steady to the end. It’s a great result and one which we will certainly never forget.”
Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Marc Martí) also had a competitive rally in Germany, an event he won so memorably in 2013. The Spaniard, in his first WRC event since Argentina in May, got quickly reacquainted with the car and the team to post impressive stage times from the start of the rally. He was in the hunt for a podium at the end of Friday but he lost a lot of time on Saturday afternoon when he aquaplaned into a spin. Nonetheless, he kept going and benefitted from others’ misfortune in Sunday’s opening stages to take second place behind his team-mate. He then drove masterfully not only to keep the car on the road but also to defend his second place – his first podium of 2014 and contributing to the team’s incredible 1-2 result.
Sordo said: “This is a great result for the whole team and a testament to all the people who work so hard in the team and at the factory. To get our first 1-2 is fantastic. Normally, I would prefer to be the one scoring the win but I am happy with second and I am pleased for Thierry. It has been a tough rally so we were focussed on getting to the finish safely. I have to say the team has really developed a lot since I was last competing, both in terms of the operations and the car performance. We can really use this result to continue our momentum and our learning in our first year.”
Bryan Bouffier (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Xavier Panseri) completed Rallye Deutschland under Rally 2 regulations following his coming together with a Hinkelstein on Saturday’s final stage. The mechanics worked their magic to allow the Frenchman to rejoin the rally this morning but unfortunately he went off at the start of the Power Stage and was unable to complete the event.
Bouffier said: “I am disappointed that I haven’t been able to complete this rally. The conditions have not been easy and I was just caught out in the final stage. The positive fact is that the team has been rewarded with a fantastic 1-2 result, so congratulations to Thierry for the win and Dani for second. This result will represent a huge motivational boost for the entire team, who have worked so hard in the past year and a half. Having been part of the journey since last year, I feel very close to this team and I share in the joy of this result with all of them.”
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is understandably overjoyed with the 1-2 result and becoming a winning WRC manufacturer so early in its young programme. The team has demonstrated its intent to the WRC and shown steady improvement throughout the season but winning was never on the agenda in this learning year.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “I feel a little bit like I am still dreaming. We could never imagine that coming here, in just our ninth WRC rally, that we would be celebrating a 1-2 result. It is quite remarkable and very special. It has been a busy weekend with some tough conditions and requiring everyone to be at the absolute top of their game. Our team has been absolutely first class and it is thanks to each of them – here and at Alzenau – that we have this result today. The drivers have been on competitive form since the first stage and they thoroughly deserve this. To see Thierry take his first win and Dani on the podium is wonderful. We wanted to use this year as a learning year and we won’t let this result carry us away. However, we have made continuous progress and our Hyundai i20 WRC is improving all the time. We benefitted from the unfortunate retirement of other drivers today but we were genuinely fighting for the podium and that reflects the progress we have made as a team. For now, we will enjoy the moment and thank everyone for their support of our young team.”