Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) consolidated a hard fought fourth position by taking second place and an extra two points on the Power StageHayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) and Juho Hänninen (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) brought their cars home after a tough rally to achieve the team’s primary aims for the weekend.
The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team has completed the final event of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (FIA), Wales Rally GB, with all three Hyundai i20 WRCs – meeting the team’s main objectives for the rally.
For the final day of Wales Rally GB, drivers have tackled six special stages, a loop of three stages repeated in reverse order (Brenig-10.81km, Alwen-10.04km, Kinmel Park 2.21km) with Brenig acting as the Power Stage at lunchtime. The 46.12km of Sunday stages take the event’s total to 305km, offering Hyundai Shell World Rally Team the chance to pick up more valuable experience with its always-evolving Hyundai i20 WRC car. Conditions have been among the most challenging of the season with the muddy, slippery stages giving drivers a real test of their talent.
Thierry Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul) has been involved in a close battle for fourth place for much of the rally and this was eventually cemented after Kris Meeke suffered punctures on the final morning. The Belgian crew have put in another committed performance behind the wheel of their Hyundai i20 WRC to extract the full potential from the car in the tricky conditions posed by the Welsh stages.
Neuville said: “I think we can be generally satisfied with this fourth place and the extra two points from second on the Power Stage. This has been a hard rally for everyone with some very challenging and slippery conditions on all stages. It has been tricky to understand the grip levels and so easy to make a mistake. We had a decent final day considering these new stages were very muddy and we did our absolute best to bring the car home, which is our top priority. We had some good battles throughout the rally so we can be pleased with fourth place. This rally brings our debut season to an end and there are so many positive things to look back on that will help us develop the Hyundai i20 WRC and the team for next season. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Hayden Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver John Kennard) completed his sixth WRC event with the team with a fighting finish as he chased down a top ten result, in the end just 5.2 seconds from ninth. The Kiwi crew have sought to make gains throughout the three-day event, improving their confidence in the #20 car and adding more information to the team’s wealth of data from this debut season.
Paddon commented: “There’s no hiding from the fact it’s been a hard weekend. This rally has been completely different to the other five we’ve contested this year so we’ve had to learn a lot and adapt. Friday was tough but we have made improvements stage by stage and day by day. Today has been a short day but it has been a good one, showing the developments we’ve made over the three days. Our objective in all rallies this year has been to learn, to gain experience and Wales Rally GB has been no different. With that in mind, I think we’ve accomplished a lot is a nice way for the team to close the first season in WRC.”
Juho Hänninen (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC, co-driver Tomi Tuominen) has not had the easiest of rally weekend in Wales but he has persevered until the very end to complete the event under Rally 2 regulations. The Finn’s final position on the classification does not reflect his performance potential on the demanding Wales Rally GB stages, as represented by some competitive stage times.
Hänninen commented: “We couldn’t really get into a good rhythm on the first stage this morning because of the slippery, muddy conditions. It’s been a difficult rally so to get all three cars to the end is an achievement. We were fortunate to restart under Rally 2 yesterday but since then I think we’ve done a solid job with some decent times in tricky roads. From a team point of view, our target was to finish and to get some experience in these unique stages, which I think we have done. It’s been a valuable, if not straightforward, weekend.”
Each of the 13 rounds on this year’s competitive WRC calendar have offered the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team a stern test in its debut season on the global rally stage, but the Alzenau-based squad has risen to the challenge.
Despite it being a learning year, the team has made a positive impression on the series with a memorable 1-2 in Rallye Deutschland one of the highlights of the year. The team has scored podiums in three events – Mexico, Poland and Germany – as well as taking 12 stage wins along the way, exceeding the modest targets set by the team for its first year in the Championship.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have met our targets of a three car finish, and worked very hard to make improvements to the Hyundai i20 WRC cars over the weekend. These conditions are unlike any we have faced during the season so it is a useful addition to our learning curve. As the final rally of 2014, we have brought our learning season to a successful conclusion. I am personally very proud of everything our young team has achieved this year. From the debut at Monte Carlo to our 1-2 in Germany and this weekend in Wales, we have made a lot of progress with many highlights. In some regards, we have exceeded our targets but most importantly we have built up a huge bank of experience, information and knowledge which will be crucial to us as we prepare our second season. We will sit down and reflect on this complete season but the team and drivers have performed fantastically well all year and I think we can all be very happy with what we’ve accomplished in such a short space of time.”
Overall Final Classification
S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:08.2M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +37.6M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:03.6T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:14.9K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:24.3E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:03.0O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:29.7J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:47.5M. Prokop / J. Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:43.3H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:48.5...30. J. Hänninen / T. Tuominen (Hyundai i20 WRC) +30:46.8
2014 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
S. Ogier 267 points / J.M. Latvala 218 / A. Mikkelsen 150 / M. Hirvonen 126 / M. Østberg 108 / T. Neuville 105 / K. Meeke 92 / E. Evans 81 / M. Prokop 44 / D. Sordo 40 / H. Solberg 26 / B. Bouffier 20 / J. Hänninen 20 / H. Paddon 19 / O. Tanak 17 / R. Kubica 14 / B. Guerra 8 / C. Atkinson 7 / P. Tidemand 6 / J. Melicharek 4 / D. Kuipers 4 / N. Al-Attyiah 4 / L. Bertelli 2 / M. Gamba 2 / C. Breen 2 / J. Protasov 2 / J. Ketomaa 1 / K. Kruuda 1 / K. Al Qassimi 1
2014 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
Volkswagen Motorsport 447 points / Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 210 / M-Sport World Rally Team 208 / Hyundai Motorsport 187 / Volkswagen Motorsport II 133 / Jipocar Czech National Team 49 / Hyundai Motorsport N 28 / RK M-Sport World Rally Team 26
All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation