Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2015 Rally Sweden in pictures

2015 Rally Monte Carlo

Well, whaddya know, time flies when you’re having fun and Rally Mexico is almost upon us. By the barest of margins here’s your chance to check out the ice cool pics from Rally Sweden, which was one of the most exciting WRC events we’ve ever seen.

Let’s hope Rally Mexico provides as much entertainment and another chance to look at those silly hats!

Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2015 Rally Sweden

2015 Rally Sweden

Sebastien Ogier won Rally Sweden on the weekend, but this was not just any rally win. It was one of the most exciting finales to a WRC event we have been lucky enough to see. And the final deciding stage was live on television.

Going into the last special stage, a power stage offering bonus championship points, Andreas Mikkelsen held a narrow lead from Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville. All three drivers had led the rally at various stages over the weekend.

Neuville was the first of the three leaders to go and did his part by setting the fastest time, more than five seconds faster than Mads Ostebrg’s previous best. Next was Ogier and in that 16km final stage we saw what he is made of. The dual world champion was blistering and went 4.8 seconds faster than Neuville. Wow!

The pressure was on the young shoulders of Andreas Mikkelsen, could he defend his lead and claim his maiden WRC victory?

Alas for the 25-year-old Norwegian he made a small mistake about two-thirds the way through the stage. Like many before him during this event, he ran a fraction wide on a corner and was sucked into one of the soft snow banks. There was no damage to his car, but the 40 seconds he lost relegated him back to third place, behind Neuville and eventual winner Ogier. It was a cruel blow and ended hopes for what would have been a very popular win.

With his second win from two races Ogier is already building a sizeable gap in the championship; he has 53 points and leads Mikkelsen and Neuville, both on 30 points.

The next rally will take place in Mexico in around three weeks from now.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2014 Rally Germany in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Germany

WRC cars in aggressive tarmac trim, the stunning beauty of the Moselle Valley, as far as world class rallying goes, it doesn’t get much better than this.

So strap yourself in and enjoy reliving Thierry Neuville’s maiden WRC victory. There’s some awesome photos in our latest rally installment; we hope you’ll like them.

Hyundai WRC

Thierry Neuville wins 2014 Rally Germany

Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul, 2014 Rally Germany

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.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rally Mexico

2014 WRC Rally Mexico

Clichés are usually so entrenched they cannot be avoided. In Rally Mexico three clichés became clear: 1. Sebastien Ogier wins rallies; 2. the winner in Mexico MUST wear a sombrero; and 3. Robert Kubica rolls rally cars.

Business as usual, then, it would appear. Although, Ogier did have to overcome Citroën’s Mads Ostberg on Day 1 to claim the lead, before once again settling into what appeared to be a controlled rhythm of excellence.

Ostberg’s challenge ended on Day 2 after his car suffered suspension damage as Ogier began to sieze control of the rally. The reigning world champion eventually won by more than 70 seconds from teammate Jarri-Matti Latvala. Meanwhile, Ostberg struggled on to finish ninth.

In a boost for the sport Thierry Neuville achieved Hyundai’s first WRC podium, despite being more than five minutes behind the race winner. Neuville’s joy was almost short lived, though, with a holed radiator after the final stage almost making him late for time control, which would have denied him of that podium result. Some quick thinking and repairs aided by a bottle of Corona to top up the radiator were enough to bring Neuville home.

Chris Atkinson got his first taste of Hyundai’s teething problems on Day 1 when a suspension arm broke for no apparent reason, sending him down the leaderboard. It was a precursor to a raft of issues and he did well to fight back and earn the team some solid points thanks to a seventh place finish.

Ford’s hopes were carried by youngster Elfyn Evans who recorded his best WRC result with P4, with Mikko Hirvonen well behind in eighth place after an alternator problem ended his assault on Day 1. Robert Kubica rolled his car heavily twice, first on Day 1 and again the following day.

Kubica wasn’t alone, with Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelesen missing a pace note and flipping his Polo in spectacular fashion. Amazingly he landed on his wheels and was able to finish the stage, but not much more. Kris Meeke endured a troubled event in his Citroën and finished outside the top 10.

Ogier now resumes the lead of the world championship, three points ahead of Latvala, both are comfortably ahead of Ostberg in third.

The next rally will be held in Portugal across the first weekend in April, where we hope Hyundai can continue to push for another strong result. Or that anyone can make Volkswagen fight for victory.

Hyundai WRC

Hyundai to run three cars in Rally de Portugal

2014 Rallye Monte Carlo

Hyundai has announced it will run three i20 WRCs in a rally for the first time with confirmation Thierry Neuvilla, Juho Hanninen and Dani Sordo will compete at Rally de Portugal (3–6 April).

“Having three cars at Rally de Portugal will be very positive for us and it will allow us to continue our data collection and to accumulate more mileage in our debut WRC season,” said Team Principal Michel Nandan.

“I think we have a good line-up for Portugal with Thierry, Juho and Dani—each of them will bring their experience and will give us their own unique feedback which will help us in the continuous development of the Hyundai i20 WRC.

“Thierry’s level of performance combined with Juho’s skills on gravel and Dani’s experience and excellent track record at Rally de Portugal make them a very good choice for the event.”

Hyundai also confirmed it will participate in the traditional warm-up for the Portugal event, the Fafe Rally Sprint.

Chris Atkinson gets his first competitive taste of the i20 WRC when he joins Neuville in a two-car attack for Hyundai at Rally Mexico (6–9 March).

Hyundai WRC

Hyundai’s WRC return didn’t quite go to plan

Hyundai i20 WRC

We have no doubt Hyundai would love nothing more than for Thierry Neuville’s rivals to be looking the tail of his i20 WRC in 2014. We just don’t think they quite imagined his tail would be all smashed up like this.

That’s the sad an unfortunate result of Neuville’s off in the icy conditions of SS1 at the Rallye Monte Carlo. Unsurprisingly, he was forced to retire from the rally.

Better results awaited Dani Sordo in the #8 i20 WRC and he managed to find himself in the podium positions, running in third. Sadly for him an alternator problem forced him out of the event.

After much hard work and high on anticipation Hyundai’s new era in the WRC was over almost before it began. Hard luck for them. On the positive side for WRC fans Hyundai Motorsport has already packaged up a YouTube video. On the negative side for Hyundai an amateur video showing Neuville’s car being winched onto a flat bed is also on the tubes.

After day 1 of the Monte privateer Bryan Bouffier in his M-Sport prepared Fiesta RS WRC holds a commanding lead over Kris Meeke (Citroën) and Robert Kubica (Ford). Defending champions Volkswagen have to make do with fourth (Ogier), seventh (Latvala) and ninth (Mikkelesen), but at least they’re all still running.

Hyundai WRC

Hyundai ready for WRC return

Hyundai i20 WRC

Hyundai will make its return to the WRC next week, although strictly speaking, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will make its debut. Team leader Thierry Neuville will be joined by Dani Sordo as the pair cross their fingers and hope for the best when the i20 WRC fires up and the action starts.

Neuville understands he’s about to head into the great unknown with his new car. “Our aim is to finish the event and get some good experience and mileage to further develop the Hyundai i20 WRC,” the young Belgian said.

“We carried out some good testing ahead of the rally where we drove the car in very different weather conditions. Although it is very difficult to recreate the exact same conditions we will find on the event and to test everything, we will give it absolutely everything.”

Team Principal, Michel Nandan, is also circumspect ahead of his team’s first outing. “This rally has been the first major target in our development schedule and finally we’re there,” Nandan said. “It’s a hugely significant and special moment for us all.

“We all know that Thierry can achieve outstanding performance levels despite his young age, while Dani has a lot of experience in WRC and at Rallye Monte-Carlo. I can definitely say that we have a very good mix!

“We have not set any results targets because our first priority is to finish the rally with both cars, to learn as much as possible and to use that as a base to improve for the following events.”

Hyundai WRC

Hyundai Motorsport launches i20 WRC car

Hyundai i20 WRC

Hyundai Motorsport has launched its i20 WRC and with it comes a title sponsor and full driver line up for the 2014 season. Officially known as the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team the outfit will be lead by rising Belgian star and runner-up in the 2013 WRC season Thierry Neuville.

The team will run two cars over the course of 2014 and the second i20 WRC will be shared among three drivers. Finnish driver Juho Hänninen will compete in the bulk of the rallies with Spanish driver Dani Sordo stepping in for Rallye Monte Carlo, while Chris Atkinson will race in his home event at Rally Australia. More opportunities for Sordo and Atkinson to compete next year are likely, but that’s all we have confirmed for now.

You’ll notice a large N on the bonnet of the i20 and the overalls of the crew. This is a new letter used to signify “high performance technologies” used in the WRC car. It pays homage to the company’s Namyang R&D Centre and will also soon be seen on Hyundai’s road cars.

Michel Nandan, Team Principal of Hyundai Motorsport, explains much work has already been done, but the team knows its biggest challenge awaits.

“In less than one year, we have built and tested a brand new WRC-specification car, the Hyundai i20 WRC, and established a professional team and modern motorsport facility,” Nandan said. “It’s a huge accomplishment but we know that we have a lot to learn in our first season.

“Our aims for 2014 are realistic: we want to finish each rally with both cars and build up a database of information and experience so we can develop ourselves into prospective rally winners in the future. If all goes well, we will hope to be competing for occasional podiums as the year progresses.”

More detail and photos from Hyundai Motorsport are all yours after the break.

Hyundai WRC

Hyundai signs Thierry Neuville to lead WRC charge

Thierry Neuville

Hyundai Motorsport has confirmed one of WRC’s hottest rumours by announcing the signing of young Belgian ace Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

The 25-year-old M-Sport driver is currently in a fight for second place in the world championship and will be going all out at Wales Rally GB in his Ford Fiesta WRC to hold off the challenge from Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala, who is 14 points behind with just one event to run.

But from next year Neuville will be showcasing his talents at the wheel of the all-new Hyundai i20 WRC. Described by Hyundai as a “multi-year deal” it’s believed Neuville has been secured on a three-year contract which is a great sign of Hyundai’s commitment to the WRC.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal, Michel Nandan, is pleased to get his man. “By signing a driver of Thierry’s talent, we can show that Hyundai’s WRC engagement is serious and focused on long-term success,” Nandan said.

“It is also great recognition for the work that the entire team has carried out in such a short time. We both share similar values and objectives to win the championship in the long-term so we are proud to have Thierry in the team and as an ambassador for the Hyundai Motorsport brand.”

[Pic: M-Sport]

Citroen Ford Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rally de Espana

2013 Rallye de Espana

Sebastien Ogier’s good fortune has continued after he fought back to win Rally de Espana on the weekend. Jari-Matti Latvala’s second place ensured Volkswagen secured the manufacturers’ championship in style, too, registering the team’s first one-two finish.

Rally de Espana is a diverse event covering tarmac and gravel with the extra dimension of night stages. The severe dust during the gravel stages made things very tricky for the drivers.

Ogier started in his usual fashion, building a lead over his rivals. However, he suffered a puncture cutting a corner a little too aggressively and dropped down to fourth place. Latvala and Dani Sordo, in his home event, assumed the battle for the lead.

Sadly, both endured bad luck which put both men out of contention. Latvala’s car had a leaking fuel line on the final day which caused a small fire and scuppered any hopes of Volkswagen duel to the finish line. Alas, Sordo’s misfortune was worse, hitting a small rock which wrecked his suspension and forced him into retirement on the final day while a podium position was his for the taking.

In the difficult gravel stages Ogier was superb fighting his way back from a deficit of over 40 seconds. He put on a rallying masterclass, made his own luck and took the win by over 30 seconds in the end.

Earlier this year Sebastien Ogier raced in the Porsche Supercup at the Monaco Grand Prix, where he became friends with Sean Edwards. After the rally Ogier dedicated his win to Edwards and his family.

It’s been a magical debut season for Volkswagen in 2013 and with just Rally Wales GB in mid-November left on the calendar they’ll be hoping they can finish the season with another victory.

A special note for Robert Kubica, too, who won the WRC2 championship with his class victory in Spain. We’ll have more on that later.

Citroen Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2013 Rally Australia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC, 2013 Rally Australia

Volkswagen ace Sebastien Ogier enjoyed a commanding weekend around Coffs Harbour winning 19 of 22 stages on his way to a dominant Rally Australia victory. It’s his sixth win of the year and came within a whisker of confirming his maiden world championship.

In order for Ogier to claim the title in Australia he needed to finish nine points or more ahead of Ford’s Thierry Neuville. And for much of the event, with Neuville in third place out of Mikko Hirvonen’s reach in second place, the stars seemed aligned for Ogier.

However, Hirvonen’s Citroën suffered a puncture on the final stage and cost him enough time to promote Neuville into second place. It was rotten luck for Hirvonen who has endured a difficult year. He is a three-time winner of Rally Australia and was enjoying a good rally and looked set for a comfortable second place.

The mathematical chance for Neuville to upset Ogier now hangs on by a single point, although most now expect Ogier will have the luxury of confirming his world title in front of his home crowd in next month’s Rally de France-Alsace.

Elsewhere in the field Jari-Matti Latvala suffered a puncture to his Polo R WRC on the opening day which put him out of contention. He was able to earn some decent points for Volkswagen in the manufacturers’ championship, though, coming home in fourth place. Young Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelsen put his name in the spotlight ending Day 1 in the lead of the event. His inexperience showed and he finished the race in sixth place.

For Citroën it had subbed out Rally Germany winner Dani Sordo for Kris Meeke. In the early stages Meeke was repaying that faith on the difficult Australian gravel running well and looking secure in third place. On Day 2 a small mistake sent Meeke down a steep embankment and his car rolled several times. The Citroën crew did an amazing job to rebuild the car overnight and Meeke was able to rejoin the rally on the final day. Unfortunately he made another error and ripped the right rear suspension from his car. The 34-year-old Irishman cut a forlorn figure at rally’s end.

A quick shout out too for Coffs Harbour local Nathan Quinn who was competing in a Motorsport Italia MINI JCW WRC and brought it home in one piece in eighth place collecting four world championship points.

Photos, videos and official press statements from both Volkswagen and Citröen are all yours after the break.