Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2014 Rally Poland in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Poland

While it’s true we have missed out on regular WRC updates you haven’t missed out on anything you couldn’t have guessed for yourself. And that’s Sebastien Ogier has won another rally and is well on the way to his second world championship.

Also happy with his time in Poland was junior Volkswagen driver Andreas Mikkelesen who achieved his best WRC result to date. It was good to see Thierry Nueville at the somewhat pointy end, too. Let’s hope Hyundai can figure more prominently in the second half of the season.

Ogier leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 50 points in the title race. And if you were in any doubt about Volkswagen’s current WRC dominance then consider that Latvala, only in second in the championship, has enough points on his own to lead the manufacturers’ standings.

So now you’re up to speed on where the WRC is at and we promise you won’t have to wait over a month for a Rally Finland update!

2014 WRC Rally Poland

  1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Polo R WRC – 2:34:02.00
  2. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Polo R WRC – +1:07.7
  3. Thierry Neuville Hyundai i20 WRC – +2:13.5
Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

2014 Rally Italia in pictures

2014 WRC Rally Italia

You may have noticed our WRC coverage has dropped off the radar for a bit, well in a mad panic before this weekend’s Rally Finland we’re going to bring you back up to speed. First, let’s take a look at Rally Italia, where we have assembled over 75 images from the four major teams for you to enjoy.

Sebastien Ogier won in Italy, extending his championship lead to 33 points over his Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. You may also recall this was the rally where Mikko Hirvonen’s backside got a bit hot.

2014 WRC Rally Italia

  1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Polo R WRC – 4:02:37.8
  2. Mads Ostberg Citroën DS3 WRC – +1:23.1
  3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Polo R WRC – +1:32.8
Formula 1 Mercedes-Benz

2014 German GP: Qualifying report

2014 German Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg will start tonight’s German Grand Prix from pole position after his teammate Lewis Hamilton crashed out due to a brake failure in Q1. In his first lap of Q3 Rosberg laid down a marker (1:16.540) that nobody could match. It’s his fourth pole in the last five races.

In the first serious hit out since the teams ditched the FRIC suspension the order we have come to expect in 2014 remained largely in tact. Perhaps we’re not used to seeing both Williams drivers in the top three, but their form has been on the improve in recent times and seeing Valtteri Bottas (1:16.759) almost challenge for pole was not a total surprise, nor was seeing Felipe Massa (1:17.078) in the frame as well.

In P4 was Kevin Magnussen (1:17.214) who claims McLaren has benefitted from the recent suspension changes. Once again Daniel Ricciardo (1:17.273) has qualified ahead of Sebastian Vettel (1:17.577) and the Red Bull pair will start from P5 and P6 respectively.

“It wasn’t too bad today, we would like to be further forward than fifth, but the lap I did was pretty good,” Ricciardo said. “I made quite an improvement in Q3 from Q2 so I can’t really argue with the lap I did, but as a team we are still a bit off.

“We know the Mercedes is strong, but the Williams was also continually showing their pace today and the McLaren with Kevin was good, so we have to keep working but we did what we could.

“I think the race will be close between the top eight tomorrow and it will be a battle for the final podium spot.”

The top 10 was rounded out by Fernando Alonso (1:17.649), Daniil Kvyat (1:17.965), Nico Hulkenberg (1:18.014) and Sergio Perez (1:18.035).

The major drama from qualifying was Hamilton’s crash in Q1. He is okay, although he was a bit shaken and has bruised knees after making heavy contact with the tyre barrier. Immediately afterwards Lewis claimed a brake failure caused him to lose control. Mercedes later confirmed a front right disc failed.

Mercedes has changed the discs on Lewis’ car and will now most likely start the race from the pit lane.

Nico Rosberg explained in the press conference he knew he could not be affected by the same problem as he runs different brake components to Lewis. Which is an interesting discussion point on its own.

Rosberg will be hoping to cap-off a great start to his home grand prix with a win, something made that little bit easier by Hamilton’s woes. Perhaps, things are just going to go Nico’s way this year.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally Argentina

2014 WRC Rally Argentina

It’s another belated WRC update, but this time we just wanted to make sure the rest of the field had crossed the line, such was the dominance shown by Jari-Matti Latvala en route to his second win for 2014.

Latvala enjoyed a trouble-free event and finished almost 90 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier. But even that doesn’t tell the full story as Ogier had put the cue in the rack around half way through the rally, figuring a secure and safe second place was better than risking a DNF in the chase for victory.

After Mads Ostberg crashed early on Day 1 Citroën’s charge was left to Kris Meeke. This would have given the team cause for concern following Meeke’s big crash in Portugal. However, the Northern Irishman delivered a solid drive and was very relieved to finish on the podium.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished fourth for Volkswagen and but for a slipped alternator belt on the opening day he would have likely given Volkswagen a clean sweep of the podium. In the end he did well to fight back from a five minute time penalty to keep Meeke on his toes.

Hyundai will be pleased with Thierry Neuville’s fifth place, bringing home some valuable points and more experience for his team.

Robert Kubica finished the rally! Even better for the former F1 star, he was the best placed Ford driver and came home in sixth place. The conditions in Argentina were treacherous at times, thanks to heavy rain in the lead up to the event, so it was no mean feat for any of the drivers, let alone the inexperienced Kubica, to get through the rally unscathed.

Ogier maintains a healthy lead in the drivers’ championship, ahead of Latvala. Mikkelsen and Ostberg are currently tied for third place. Similarly, with five wins from five events, Volkswagen has streaked away to a massive lead in the constructors’ race. The team already has more than twice the points of its nearest challenger, Citroën, with M Sport (Ford) further behind.

Latvala’s win and Ogier’s cautious approach breathes new life into the 2014 championship with the first genuine signs that Ogier’s drivers’ title is up for grabs.

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rally Portugal

2014 WRC Rally Portugal

Okay, so this update is bringing you news that’s a week old, but you get that from time to time with a blog that’s an unpaid labour of love rather than a full time gig.

You’ve seen already, too, that Sebastien Ogier won Rally Portugal. It’s Volkswagen’s fourth win from four rallies in 2014. Coupled with a string of four victories to close out last season they have equalled the best ever run of eight consecutive WRC victories alongside Citroën. That’s a fair effort for Volkswagen and the Polo R WRC, in just their second year of competition.

Ogier had to fight early in the rally to overcome Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen, both men holding the rally lead before Ogier restored the rightful order. For Sordo he became the first Hyundai driver to lead a WRC event. He was unable to maintain his grip for long but was looking secure for a fourth placed finish until a broken driveshaft ended his event, although he impressed team bosses enough to earn himself an extra drive for the next rally.

Mikko Hirvonen proved there’s still life in him and the Ford Fiesta RS WRC by holding for second, ahead of Mads Ostberg who reminded us that Citroën is still capable of mixing it at the front as well.

Andreas Mikkelsen finished fourth for Volkswagen, managing to get himself ahead of privateer Henning Solberg late in the rally.

For the first time Hyundai ran three cars in a rally and Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen came home in seventh and eighth places respectively. They team is showing good pace but is still gaining valuable experience and you sense their challenge will begin in earnest in 2015.

You can’t have a WRC without some spectacular accidents and the honour, or should that be the shame, of the best crash was a fight between young M-Sport driver Elfyn Evans and Volkswagen’s Jarri-Matti Latvala. Both crews were unhurt and Latvala even managed to earn himself a couple of points in the power stage on the final day.

Oh, yes, of course, Robert Kubica crashed out again. In 11 days of racing this year he has crashed out in 10.

Volkswagen and Ogier are again establishing themselves at the top of their respective championship tables and both will be hoping they can set a new mark of nine rally wins on end when they tackle Rally Argentina next month.

Until then check out our 2014 Rally Portugal photo gallery and official team videos after the break.

Hyundai Video WRC

Onboard with Dani Sordo at the Fafe Rally Sprint

Dani Sordo, Hyundai i20 WRC, Fafe Rally Sprint

Watching good quality onbard footage of any motorsport catergory rarely gets tired. And that theory is proved with this clip from Hyundai showing Dani Sordo in action in the i20 WRC at the Fafe Rally Sprint on the weekend.

The unofficial warm up to Rally Portugal was won by Sebastien Ogier in front of around 100,000 cheering rally fans.

In addition to the Dani Sordo clip there’s another clip for you, filmed from within the massive crowds. It’s more quality action and it almost feels like you’re right in there, part of the electric atmosphere.

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).

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala wins 2014 Rally Sweden

2014 WRC Rally Sweden

Jari-Matti Latvala took a peek around the shadow of Sebastien Ogier by winning Rally Sweden on the weekend. It was a dominant result for Volkswagen with rising star Andreas Mikkelsen claiming second and his first WRC podium result.

Defending Rally Sweden winner Ogier gave Volkswagen cause to hope for a clean sweep of the podium when he led the rally in its early stages. An uncharacteristic and simple mistake saw the world champion run wide on a corner into a soft snow bank. No damage was done to him or the car, but his victory chances were shot after taking four and half minutes to get back on course. The best he could manage was a climb back to sixth position.

Mads Ostberg was happy to pick up Ogier’s slack and did so by coming home in third, his first podium result for Citroën. The Norwegian stepped up to take maximum points in the power stage as well.

In fourth place was Mikko Hirvonen who was almost on the pace but not quite in the Fiesta RS WRC. He’ll be happy to lock away some good championship points. Something his teammate Elfyn Evans wasn’t able to do. The Welshman’s inexperience showed in Sweden, although he was heading for a top 10 finish until a late off pushed him out of points contention.

Kris Meeke, who did so well in the very difficult conditions in Monte Carlo, was one of many drivers to succumb to Sweden’s snow banks and he finished in P10, more than 11 minutes behind Latvala.

The raw pace of Robert Kubica can’t be denied, but his propensity to find trouble where others don’t must be starting to become a concern. It’s true that conditions found in Sweden are never likely to be his favourite, but he had a tough time all the same and finished a lowly 24th more than 36 minutes off the pace.

And then we get to Hyundai who endured another trying weekend. Thierry Neuville was joined by Juho Hanninen for driving duties at this event and both were putting in respectable performances running comfortably in the top 10. On Day 2 both drivers clipped rocks on the apex of a corner which put them out of contention for the day. Neither driver was out of shape prior to their respective incidents, it was just bad luck for both.

The Hyundais resumed under Rally 2 conditions on the final day and were able to chalk up some good experience. Hanninen’s 36m leap was enough to win the prize for the Colin’s Crest longest jump. Ogier managed a record 41m jump later in the day, but it wasn’t eligible for the prize as it wasn’t on his first run.

Latvala now leads the championship from Ogier and Ostberg. It was at this event in 2013 that Ogier took the lead in the world championship and he hadn’t relinquished the top position until now.

Rally Mexico is the next rally on the calendar, taking place in early March. Chris Atkinson will get his turn in the Hyundai i20 WRC and will be hoping he has more luck than his teammates have experienced so far in 2014.

More after the break.

Hyundai WRC

Chris Atkinson to race in Rally Mexico

Hyundai i20 WRC

Great news for Chris Atkinson overnight as word came through he will be making his debut in the Hyundai i20 WRC at Rally Mexico in early March.

Prior to this announcemnt Chris’ only confirmed drive for 2014 was at Rally Australia in September. You’d like to think with a good showing in Mexico he could be a chanec to fill his diary a few more times in the shared #8 i20.

Atkinson’s best ever WRC finish, a second place, was registered in the 2008 Rally Mexico and he is hoping to build on that experoence.

“It has been a great pleasure to have been involved in the testing of the Hyundai i20 WRC but to have the opportunity to contest Rally Mexico with the team is fantastic,” Atkinson said. “I have had several good results in Mexico, including my best WRC finish of second place in 2008, so I have some great memories of this event and the Mexican fans.

“It will be the competitive debut of the Hyundai i20 WRC on gravel so it will be interesting to see how we can perform. I know how hard everyone has been working to prepare for this season so I hope we can repay them with a good result!”

Citroen Ford Hyundai Volkswagen WRC

Sebastien Ogier wins 2014 Rallye Monte Carlo

2014 Rallye Monte Carlo

Sebastien Ogier overcame a poor tyre choice on Day 1 to fight back and win the Rallye Monte Carlo in style, getting his world championship defence off to a near perfect start.

To rack up his first Monte win Ogier had to reel in an impressive Bryan Bouffier in his first outing at the wheel of a privately entered Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Bouffier’s name may be familiar to you, he was one of the test drivers who helped develop the Hyundai i20 WRC, so his second place result will be extra sweet after missing out on official driving duties with the Korean team this year.

Conditions during the rally were extreme and presented the drivers with all kinds of hazards, from ice, “shiny” wet patches on slippery tarmac, heavy rain and a snow storm just to top things off.

Kris Meeke took a big step in repaying Citroën’s faith and was delighted to overcome those difficulties unscathed on his way to satisfying third place. He leaves Monte Carlo with increased confidence, acknowledging he has no issue with raw pace, but has in the past made too many silly errors.

Robert Kubica may need to take a few notes from Meeke. The former F1 star was sure fast enough during the rally and was easily mixing it with the established WRC front runners. Yet, he still found his way off course and crashed into a bridge in a manner perhaps only Robert could. Thankfully the impact was at relatively low speed and he was in no real danger of any injury.

Jari-Matti Latvala finds himself in Ogier’s shadow once again, although he lost a bit of time on Day 2 with an annoying puncture. Latvala did register a small win over his teammate when he beat him to first place in the Power Stage by 0.2 seconds. Judging by the look on Ogier’s face immediately afterwards the world of motorsport has another Seb who doesn’t like losing one little bit!

Of course, Hyundai’s return to the WRC spotlight didn’t quite go to plan and they’ll be hoping for more in Sweden next month.

After the break there’s Volkswagen’s official word along with pictures and videos from the leading WRC teams.

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.