Hyundai Motorsport has registered its third victory of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in Mikolajki, Poland, with Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon securing the team’s first 1-2 result in WRC since the 2014 Rallye Deutschland.
Dani Sordo completed Rally Poland in fourth place overall, making it the most successful combined result for Hyundai Motorsport in the team’s history. Neuville’s win represents the sixth overall WRC victory for Hyundai Motorsport since 2014, as well as the seventh double podium for the team.
Hyundai Motorsport’s impressive performance has closed the gap in the Manufacturers’ Championship to just 22 points.
Highlighting the strength of the team’s performance in Poland this weekend, 12 wins out of the 22 contested stages represents the greatest number of stage wins in a single event for Hyundai Motorsport.
Heading into Sunday’s final four tests, a repeat loop of the 11,15 km Orzysz and 18,68 km Paprotki stages, all eyes were on the intense battle between Neuville and M-Sport’s Ott Tanak.
After swapping the lead four times throughout Saturday, Neuville initially lost his advantage on Sunday’s first run through SS20 (Orzysz 1), but it all changed on SS21 (Paprotki 1) after a mid-stage incident forced Tanak out of the rally.
Neuville, not knowing about Tanak’s issue, was pushed hard to regain his lead and emerged from that stage with a one minute advantage from his Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team colleague Hayden Paddon, who had been elevated to second as a result of Tanak’s trouble.
From there it was a focused and measured final two stages with no risks taken to secure the 1-2 result. Neuville was also able to pick up an extra point in the final stage to continue his impressive run of Power Stage points this season.
The result means that Hyundai Motorsport has strengthened its hold on second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship, reducing the gap to M-Sport from 40 to 22 with five rounds remaining.
Crew Notes – Neuville/Gilsoul (no. 5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC):
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul have now taken five WRC victories for Hyundai Motorsport. Victory in Poland is their third win of 2017 and their sixth consecutive podium result. Neuville has now reduced the gap to Sébastien Ogier in the Drivers’ Championship to 11 points.
Neuville commented: “What a great result for the whole team! I am really delighted for everyone involved. It was a closely fought battle this weekend, as it seems to have been for the past few events. It was certainly a relief to retake the lead after Ott’s retirement this morning, as it allowed us some breathing space in the final stages. Our goal for the weekend was to outscore Séb, which we did, and we have closed the gap in the championship for the second rally in a row.”
Crew Notes – Paddon/Marshall (no. 4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC):
For Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall, second place is the crew’s first-ever podium in only their third event together. It is the first podium finish for the Kiwi since he finished third in Poland twelve months ago, and marks his best result since his win in Argentina in 2016.
Paddon said: “I can’t tell you how relieved I am with this result. It feels like a win after the season we have had so far. We have had some really difficult moments so to finish second as part of a fantastic team result is very special. It’s like a weight has been lifted. This morning’s final stages have required a lot of commitment to drive slowly and cleanly in tough conditions.
“We were focused on third place, but to take second, of course as a result of Ott’s misfortune, is an added bonus. We still have some speed to find compared to the guys at the front, but it sets us up nicely for Finland – and beyond. Finally, a word of thanks to Seb for a job well done this weekend, and congratulations to him for his first WRC podium.”
Crew Notes – Sordo/Martí (no. 6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC):
Sordo and Marc Martí bounced back after a disappointing Rally Italia Sardegna to claim their fifth top-four result of 2017. It was a typically consistent performance from the Spaniards which saw them complete the rally 26,6 seconds from third-placed Sébastien Ogier.
Sordo said: “It has been a difficult weekend with some tricky conditions but overall it has been positive. I am really pleased for the team, as we’ve collected a lot of points for the championship. Fourth place is not bad, but I am always aiming to perform better and to be competing for the podium in each event. I will try to do better in Finland.”
Team principal Michel Nandan commented: “This is a really important result for us as a team, especially in terms of our championship objectives. More than that, though, it shows what we can achieve as a team when we are all on top of our game. Everyone has performed fantastically this weekend, and this 1-2 result is for all of our employees in Alzenau.
“Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on their third victory of the season, and to Hayden and Seb for their first podium as a crew. With Dani and Marc also not far off in fourth, we have had a good weekend. Of course, we were sorry to see Ott retire from the rally today, after what had been an epic battle. WRC is in great health with such a high level of competition, and we are honoured to be playing our part.”
The fast and furious stages continue with the high-speed Rally Finland next up on the 2017 WRC calendar. The ninth round of the season takes place from 27 to 30 July and it is a rally where Hyundai Motorsport has yet to claim a podium finish.