Rally Italia Sardegna Review 2019 – Dani Sordo Wins!

The statistics will say that Dani Sordo won this event, but we know that it was Ott Tanak’s weekend. Here’s the story of how this all came to pass. The event started with a short stage on Thursday evening which was won by Seb. The real stages would follow on Friday.

Friday

It was a warm start to the day and there were eight stages facing the crews. Over a 140km in total as well, providing a big challenge, with a lunchtime service break in the middle. Starting positions looked like this- Ogier, Tänak, Neuville, Evans, Meeke, Suninen, Latvala, Mikkelsen, Sordo.

Starting first on the SS 2 – Tula 1 (22,25 km), a long technical stage, we saw straight away that being in the middle of the line up would allow a much faster pace, with more grip. Teemu starting sixth on the road gave him better grip and he set a very good time, winning the stage from Elfyn and Jari-Matti. Who were fourth and seventh in the lineup.

The following stage, SS 3 – Castelsardo 1 (14,72 km), saw Teemu again set the fastest time, the new co-driver partnership already paying off. Jari-Matti ensured it there were two Finns at the top, and with Elfyn only fifth fastest, the Welshman fell behind Jari-Matti to third. Championship leader Seb was now almost 30 seconds from the lead.

On then to SS 4 – Tergu – Osilo 1 (14,14 km) and Ott took a very good stage win from Latvala and Sordo, who set an identical stage time. Latvala now took the lead as Teemu lost 15 seconds in the stage and fell to second overall, whilst Ott’s pace now lifted him into third overall. But it was Lappi who had the worst stage, picking up a puncture and tumbling down to eleventh overall.

After the lunch service, there was both good and bad news for Citroen. Firstly, Seb hit a rock in the stage, SS 5 – Monte Baranta 1 (10,99 km), and they pulled over and stopped in the stage to attempt a fix, but unfortunately, they were unable to and retired for the day. There was some good news, as Esapekka Lappi won the stage from Ott, who edged a little closer to leader Latvala. Teemu fell back as he ended the stage ninth fastest, dropping to fifth overall.

The rerun of SS 6 – Tula 2 (22,25 km) saw lots of position changes! Teemu won the stage with Dani second fastest and Ott third. All of this meant that Ott and Dani held a joint lead, with Teemu just eight tenths off in third overall. Those falling from the top of the leaderboard included Latvala, who lost eight and a half minutes after a roll in the stage, whilst Thierry was passed by Kris Meeke, but still in the fight.

The following stage, SS 7 – Castelsardo 2 (14,72 km) saw three crews tackle the stage, before it was halted- The reason? Well, the first clue was that an ambulance had entered the stage, and it turned out that a spectator was taken ill.

Well, SS 8 – Tergu – Osilo 2 (14,14 km) saw Dani take another stage win, from Lappi and Latvala. With the previous stage having been cancelled, there was no official leaderboard, whilst the officials grappled with how best to deal with handing out notional times.

The final stage then, SS 9 – Monte Baranta 2 (10,99 km) and we were still waiting. The top three fastest were, Andreas, Esapekka and Dani.

When the leaderboard was finally updated, this is how it looked.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
  3. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
  4. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
  5. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
  6. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
  7. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
  8. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“We have had a great start to this rally, but it is important to remember it is run over three days; we can’t win on Friday! Still, we have found some very competitive pace from the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, benefitting of course from our road position. We have had to make the most of this opportunity today in order to get the strongest road position for Saturday. It has required us to be very focused, especially in the afternoon loop, because we know the smallest mistake here can have big consequences. We sacrificed a bit of speed in the final stage to ensure we ended the day strongly. Leading the rally sounds good to me, but there’s a long way to go.”

2019 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Italia Sardegna
13-16 June 2019
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Andreas Mikkelsen (4th)

“Our day got off to a bad start when we made the wrong tyre choice on the morning loop – it was clear from the start that it was going to be tough. There was nothing we could do and the car was all over the place. By the final stage, the rear tyres were slicks. We had a much better afternoon. The driving was good, the tyre strategy was correct and we had a great feeling from the car. Road order is going to be really important tomorrow so it’s a shame we couldn’t be even higher up the order, as I am sure we could have been without our morning issues.”

Thierry Neuville (7th)

“We’ve not had the greatest of days, but the important thing is that we’ve survived. This morning although we didn’t opt for the best tyre choice, it was enough to keep us close to the lead. The extra weight was the biggest disadvantage; there are a lot of stones on the outside where the car is dancing, and we struggled to keep the car straight. The afternoon started badly when we had a miscommunication on the pace notes and ended up in a ditch. There’s no one to be blamed, it’s just one of those things but we lost a lot of time. We used a lot of tyre performance on the next stage, which was ultimately cancelled for the other crews, and that left us at a disadvantage. We are going to face an uphill battle for the rest of the weekend, but we don’t give up. A podium is still not out of the question.”

 

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I have to say that I’m really happy with our performance today. I think we did a great job with the whole team, and it was just a shame that we did that one mistake in the morning – spinning and losing over 10 seconds.

“Jarmo has been teaching and coaching me all day and I have to say that I really enjoyed being the student again. I am still young and it’s great to be next to a really experienced co-driver like him.

“I think everyone will be really fast tomorrow, and we need to focus on our own performance. I would be happy with a podium, or even a top-four, but let’s try our best and see what happens.”

Elfyn Evans (5th)

“When the going was good, the speed was there, but we didn’t have the correct feeling with the car for some stages this morning – and that cost us quite dearly.

“Things were looking up in the afternoon but with the cancellation of the second stage [SS7] for the guys behind, we used a lot more tyres. I then made a little mistake in the next stage [SS8], and there was a massive cleaning effect in the last one [SS9].

“We dropped down the order a lot further than we would have liked, but it’s still incredibly close and we’ll fight our way forward tomorrow.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (3rd)

“It has been a challenging day but I believe we did everything we could. This afternoon we had an extra challenge running first on the road: Some sections were OK but in the narrow sections the ruts were full of loose gravel and it was really hard to find traction. In the last stages it was difficult for us to compete with the guys whose tyres had done one less stage. But we had a good rhythm and I could just try to push on every stage. Tomorrow it will be a big fight but we will have a better road position and hopefully this will make all the difference.”

Kris Meeke (6th)

“These stages today were mostly new for me, and I struggled a bit this morning just to find my way. We maybe could have had a different tyre choice as well, as the temperatures were very high already by mid-morning which was tough on the medium tyres. This afternoon was stronger and we had a decent rhythm. The car’s been near perfect and I’m generally quite happy. Tomorrow’s stages are more traditional from this rally and I have knowledge of them from the past, so hopefully the feeling should be better and we’ll try to take every position we can.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (TBC)

“We had a really good morning. It was very hot and I knew the tyre wear would be high in those conditions, so I took five hard tyres and I think it was a great choice. Then in the first stage of the afternoon, at a hairpin I pulled the handbrake too early, we cut the inside of the corner and rolled. It was a stupid mistake. It took a lot of effort for Miikka and I to get the car back on its wheels. The car was driving fine in the next stage and we could set a good time. But on the last stage, accelerating out of a hairpin the steering locked to the left and we went off the road and couldn’t continue. It’s difficult to take at the moment but hopefully we can come back and enjoy it tomorrow.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (8th)

“We had a bit of an up-and-down leg, what with my puncture this morning and the sensor issue that meant we had no engine boost, so we had trouble putting it all together. But we finished the day better than we started it. Unfortunately, on gravel, the opening leg is always fairly decisive and our day means that we won’t have a good position in the running order tomorrow. We’ll have to rely more on endurance to have a chance of moving up the standings.”

Sébastien Ogier (DNF/Rally2)

“The retirement was clearly my mistake. I just cut a little too much on a very tight left-hand corner, hit a big rock and broke the steering arm. I knew exactly where the rock was, as we had passed it three times on the shakedown. There’s a slight crest, a bit blind and perhaps I turned in slightly too early. We tried to do some makeshift repairs, but we couldn’t manage and so we had no other option but to retire. There’s not very much for us to hope for from this weekend now. As one of the early runners, I don’t think we have any chance of scoring five points in the Power Stage, given how loose and sandy the roads are, so we’ll watch what our rivals do.”

 

Saturday

This would be the longest day of action, with over 150km of stages, including two 28km stages back-to-back. The start list looked like this – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Lappi, Neuville, Meeke, Evans, Mikkelsen, Tänak, Suninen, Sordo.

 

Straight away, there were changes to the leaderboard after SS 10 – Coiluna – Loelle 1 (14,97 km), with Ott winning the stage and moving ahead of Teemu into second overall. Elfyn started well, passing Andreas for fourth overall, but this battle was certainly not over.

There was more trouble for Seb, who’d damaged his rear suspension and stopped again to fix it in SS 11 – Monti di Ala’ (28,21 km). Ott won the stage, closing on Dani for the lead, the gap now just 2.6 seconds between them! Andreas repassed Elfyn in their fight over fourth place.

An inspired choice of medium tyres for Ott lead to another stage victory in SS 12 – Monte Lerno 1 (28,03 km) and with it the overall lead now by six seconds. Elfyn passed Andreas once more, whilst Thierry didn’t seem to be able to find any pace at all, firmly holding seventh overall, almost 50 seconds from Kris.

The afternoon stages started with SS 13 – Coiluna – Loelle 2 (14,97 km) and Ott continued to build a lead over Dani. Once more the fight between Elfyn and Andreas continued with them setting the exactly same time in the stage, with Elfyn holding fourth from the Norwegian.

SS 14 – Monti di Ala’ 2 (28,21 km) saw Ott open up an even bigger lead, winning the stage by almost seven seconds from Teemu, who was consolidating his podium challenging position of third. Dani remained in second overall.

The final stage of the day, SS 15 – Monte Lerno 2 (28,03 km) and the top three was Ott, Teemu and Thierry. Rally leader Ott had won every stage today, and increased his lead to almost half a minute over Dani Sordo. Thierry moved up as well, as Kris lost two and a half minutes after having to stop and change a tyre having got a puncture, so he fell to eighth.

STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2 

  1. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:04:10.3
  2. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) +25.9
  3. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +42.9
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:25.4
  5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:33.3
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:32.4
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +2:58.3
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:53.3
  9. Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +7:23.2
  1.     Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:19:20.6

 

Let’s hear from the drivers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (1st)

“We’ve had a very strong day, but it was really demanding. We had to fight hard to get into the lead and make the gap that we have now. This morning we had a very good tyre call, and I believe that gave us some advantage. The car was working well and I had the confidence to push. This afternoon the conditions were rough and it was hot in the car. It was tough to push while also managing the tyres, and it would have been easy to get a puncture. But we had a very clean run with a good rhythm. We’re in a great position but we still have a big job to do tomorrow with four tricky stages waiting for us.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“This morning I had a decent rhythm but I was still hesitating a bit in places, as it had been four years since I’d last driven these stages. Still, we managed to maintain the gap to the two drivers in front of us even though they had an advantage with the road cleaning. This afternoon I improved my rhythm and the first two stages went really well. Then in a fast section we had an impact with something in the middle of the road and it damaged a rim. I always knew this rally would be one of my toughest of the year, so to have been fighting for fourth tomorrow would have been really nice, so it’s really disappointing. Now we just need to bring home some points tomorrow.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (22nd)

“The goal for today was to enjoy the driving, but it’s never easy to be first on the road. This morning was very good, I was actually very happy with the stage times for the road position that we had. The afternoon we tried something different with the setup and to have the car a bit stiffer, but it didn’t work for my driving style: I couldn’t feel the grip in the same way, so the times were not that great. But when I didn’t have that confidence, I knew to stay calm and not make mistakes. Tomorrow we’ll go back to the setup we had this morning with some fine tuning, and hopefully we can get some points from the Power Stage.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (2nd)

“We have had another good day but we just haven’t been able to match the pace of Tänak. We expected him to be fast based on his performance yesterday, and so it proved. I have been pleased with our own performance, though, as we’ve been able to hold onto second place quite comfortably. We have had to take it easy at times, in order to avoid picking up punctures, but the gap is still manageable to third place. We will try to push as much as we can tomorrow and secure our first podium finish of the season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (5th)

“The fight for fourth is well and truly on; it gives us all the motivation we need to keep pushing. It wasn’t always possible to find the best times today. We struggled to find confidence on the first pass, as we did on Friday, when the stage conditions are particularly slippery. There’s a fine line in this event because it’s so easy to pick up a puncture on the second pass. My tyres were gone by the end of the loop, so I had to take it super carefully. We lost some time to Elfyn as a result, but we’ll do all we can to get that back tomorrow.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“It’s definitely not been the sort of day we were expecting to have. We wanted to show improvements compared to yesterday but we’ve struggled. The morning loop was challenging and I didn’t feel confident in the car. Our tyre choice was again not ideal but we just had to persevere. In the past four or five events, we have really felt confident in the car but that is missing in this rally. Our pre-event test (PET) was obviously not good enough. We have spent today making adjustments to the settings and the differentials, we have learned some things but we’re not where we need to be.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I think we can be really happy with our performance today. The pace has been really solid all day and we were in the top-three on all of the stages.

“Dani [Sordo] is still some seconds away, but let’s see what we can do. We’ll try to catch him if we can, but I’ll still be happy with third position.

“Also, things with Jarmo are working really well – we have spent 14 hours together in the car today and we’re still smiling so that’s good!”

Teemu Suninen drove to a career best finish of second place with new co-driver, Jarmo Lehtinen alongside him. Photo credit, M-Sport

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s been an okay day for us. I was a bit disappointed with the speed in some places, but overall, it’s been fairly positive and we’re back up to fourth place.

“It’s going to be a close fight with Andreas tomorrow so it was a shame to lose some time with the dust on the last stage. It was coming and going with light dust in some places and thick dust in others where we had to completely slow down.

“Everyone else had a clean run, so let’s see what happens with that. Whatever the outcome, it’s still going to be close, so we’ve got to keep pushing. It’s another tricky day tomorrow, but we’ll give it our best and hopefully come away with another strong result.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Apart from one stage where we lost a bit of ground, we more or less managed to keep pace with Neuville today, who was behind us in the running order, so that’s pretty pleasing. I was comfortable in the C3 WRC but we couldn’t hope to do much more with our road position.”

Esapekka Lappi had a good event, held back with punctures. Photo credit Citroen Racing

Sébastien Ogier (44th)

“Our mistake this morning was disappointing, because it then prevented us from really testing ourselves against our rivals on the second loop. We tried to do what we could, but without having driven the stages at full speed on the first run, it was clearly almost impossible to set fast times in the afternoon. SS13 is the only stage where I tried, because we had completed it in normal conditions on the first loop, and the time was okay. Obviously, you can count on me to try and grab some points in the Power Stage, even though it looks like it will be mission impossible. As the stage is rough, perhaps some crews won’t be flat out, but we’ll be pushing as hard as we can.”

 

Sunday

Well, we had just four stages left totalling 42km’s of action. This was the start list – Ogier, Latvala, Hänninen, Meeke, Lappi, Neuville, Mikkelsen, Evans, Suninen, Sordo, Tänak.

Andreas won SS 16 – Cala Flumini 1 (14,06 km), with Elfyn just two tenths of a second behind him and holding fourth place very nicely from the Norwegian by seven seconds. Ott increased his lead a little more over Dani, who was looking good for his first podium of the year.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

SS 17 – Sassari – Argentiera 1 (6,89 km) was also won by the Norwegian and with Elfyn five and a half seconds slower the gap in their battle for fourth was getting close! Ott was still holding the lead. Seb pushed in the stage, looking to get comfortable, ready for later, when the stage would be rerun.

A further stage win for Andreas in SS 18 – Cala Flumini 2 (14,06 km), took him closer to Elfyn, just six seconds separating them. Seb took it very easy through the stage, saving his tyres for a big push in the rerun of the stage, which would be the powerstage, his best hope for scoring points.

Finally, SS 19 – Sassari – Argentiera 2 Power Stage (6,89 km), and there were three surprises! Firstly, Seb set a great time, good enough for second fastest, behind Andreas who’s made it three out of three stage wins! Elfyn could only manage fifth fastest, losing the fight to Andreas, and then lastly with Dani Sordo having already finished, there was drama for Ott, who’d lost his powersteering in the first sector of the stage, the Estonian lost two minutes in the stage, falling to fifth place. All of this meant Dani had won, securing a popular win in the service park.

FIA World Rally Championship 2019 / Round 08 / Rally d’Italia Sardegna / 13-16 June, 2019 // Worldwide Copyright: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC

FINAL RALLY STANDINGS

  1. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:32:27.2
  2. Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.7
  3. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +32.6
  4. Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +33.5
  5. Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:30.1
  6. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:06.7
  7. Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:59.6
  8. Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.1
  1.    Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:22:58.5

Well, that was a big surprise, with Dani Sordo scoring his second victory at the top level of rallying!

Let’s hear from the drivers!

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (1st)

“This is incredible. I have no words; it’s just an amazing feeling to take my first win for Hyundai and the second WRC win of my career. Of course, I am very sorry for Ott and Toyota to have experienced such bad luck on the Power Stage. At the same time, we knew we had to keep the pressure on in case this sort of situation occurred. I just can’t believe it happened. We have been quick and consistent all weekend. There was no chance to beat Ott on outright pace so we just did what we could and avoided mistakes. It wasn’t easy but we made it through to the end – and we now have this fantastic victory as a reward. Thanks to Carlos and to the team for the support and for sharing this result. I think it will take some time to fully sink in.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)

“We gave it a massive push on the final morning in an effort to cut the gap to Elfyn Evans. We had to dig deep but we were confident in our chances. The car felt really nice and we were properly in the zone. Taking all four stage wins was a fantastic feeling and we would have been content to take fourth. Unfortunately, Ott had his issues, which then handed us a podium finish, which was an unexpected but very welcome bonus. Although it has been achieved at one of our rival’s expense, we are grateful to score a 1-3 result this weekend.”

Thierry Neuville (6th)

“Absolutely not the weekend we were looking for. We have not been in the fight, so it’s been a case of damage limitation. A combination of incorrect tyre choice and other issues on Friday put us on the back foot from the start, and we’ve not been able to play a role since. We have to put it down to ‘one of those weekends’ and look to regroup and fight back in Finland. We pushed as hard as we could in the Power Stage but we could do no more. Congratulations to Dani; we have worked together at Hyundai for six years now and I am really pleased to see him and Carlos secure their first win for the team.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (2nd)

“I am really pleased with our performance this weekend. We had good speed with some fastest times on Friday, and then we were extremely consistent after that – especially on Saturday where we set the second or third fastest time on every stage.

“Today was a lot more difficult. The plan was to bring the car home, but this car really doesn’t like being driven slowly and we had to pick up the pace to make it nicer to drive. It was really hard to judge the rhythm, but we made it and it’s nice to get my first podium of the year.

“Also, the partnership with Jarmo was working really well. I thought it would be a lot more challenging having a new voice in my ear, but actually this is the voice I heard whilst watching the rally on the TV as a kid – and that gave me some good memories and big smiles all weekend.”

 

Elfyn Evans (4th)

“It’s really disappointing to have missed out by such a small margin. Looking back, the first stage of the loop was okay but we gave far too much away in both passes of the Power Stage. It’s so rough in there and so easy to make a mistake – but also so easy to make the time if you’re willing to put it all on the line. I wouldn’t say that we didn’t push, but I was definitely too cautious in the hairpins and that’s where we lost it. It’s difficult right now, but it’s still a good result and we’ve strengthened our position in the championship.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Ott Tänak (5th)

“Very early in the final stage, something very strange happened with the steering and basically it was locked. We were stationary for some time, fighting to get the steering working. Somehow, we managed to get going again, but there was a lot of time lost and so was the victory. I’m frustrated, but I also feel very sad for the team. Everybody put so much effort in for this event and in the end to lose it in this way is really a shame. I’m sure that the team will work hard to solve the problem, and we will keep fighting. It’s been a tough season so far but the championship situation is much better than it was at the same time last year. Now it’s time to have some rest and be away from rallying for a bit, and then it’s back to business.”

Kris Meeke (8th)

“I was quite enjoying it yesterday afternoon: We were improving our rhythm and our speed. Then we had the issue in the final stage, and that meant that we didn’t have much to fight for today: We were just focusing on bringing it home to score some points for the team. I knew this would be a tougher event for me, but we can take some positives from yesterday. Now I’m looking forward to Rally Finland and the rest of the year: I know that the team was really strong over the second half of the season and I think everyone’s going to give everything from now until the end of the year.”

Jari-Matti Latvala (19th)

“Today the target for me was to score some points on the Power Stage. I wanted to get into a nice rhythm this morning and keep the speed up. Then, on the third stage, I was just saving the tyres. The Power Stage was always going to be hard with our road position, and I struggled a bit in the ruts, but we had a decent run and we were able to take some points away. Overall it has been a tough weekend for me after the positive start. It’s not been the rally that we were hoping for. But we need to look forward and keep fighting.”

Citroën Total WRT

Esapekka Lappi (7th)

“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (42nd)

“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”

DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Ott Tänak – 150 points
  2. Sébastien Ogier – 146 points
  3. Thierry Neuville – 143 points
  4. Elfyn Evans – 78 points
  5. Teemu Suninen – 62 points
  6. Kris Meeke – 60 points
  7. Andreas Mikkelsen – 56 points
  8. Dani Sordo – 52 points
  9. Esapekka Lappi – 40 points
  10. Jari-Matti Latvala – 40 points

MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

  1. Hyundai WRT – 242 points
  2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 198 points
  3. Citroën Total WRT – 170 points
  4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 152 points

Summary

Well, what a remarkable round! It had everything! First of all, Ott Tänak showed once again that he with his co-driver Martin Järveoja in that Yaris WRC are a force to be reckoned with. The combination is devastatingly effective, just so fast, even when second on the road. They are now in the championship lead. He’ll have to open the road at the next round in Finland, like Thierry did last year. That will be an interesting event.

Dani Sordo drove brilliantly to head into the final day holding second place, and it would have been a well-deserved podium. His first win since 2013, when he was driving for Citroën at that years Rally Deutschland is well deserved! Andreas also found some good pace, and it was a good result for the Norwegian, who is still under pressure I believe to deliver strong results.

Teemu’s performance was really impressive as well, with Jarmo Lehtinen making his return to the co-driver’s seat at the top level for the first time since 2014. Thinking about Elfyn, and his performance over the weekend, he drove pretty well, but it was a surprise to see him lose some much time to Andreas. He’ll want to analyse with Scott, where they went wrong, as it could have been a podium, and to some degree, he was over shadowed by Teemu.

At Citroën, they had an event to forget, apart from a brilliant drive from Sébastien Ogier to second fastest time in the powerstage, despite being the first car. A strange mistake from the Frenchman saw his challenge end, but he’s still well in the fight, and he is a bit lucky that Ott didn’t win as well. Esapekka is still getting used to his C3, but he had a good event, with a stage victory, but a puncture didn’t help him.

We now have a seven week break before the next event, Rally Finland on the weekend of the first to the fourth of August. We’ll then have six events in five months to decide who wins this year’s championship!

Hyundai Motorsport 2018 review – So close, but so far…..

This was the year that this team came closest to winning both the drivers and manufacturers. It didn’t work out in the end though. The team led both championships at certain points, but ultimately fell short. Here’s how the season went for this team in their fifth season.

 

Monte Carlo day one saw Thierry slide wide and lose a lot of time, finishing seventeen overall after Thursday. Andreas and Dani went well though and were second and third, less than 30 seconds from the leader. After Friday’s stages, Dani was still in third, whilst Thierry had improved to ninth. Andreas had retired after a problem with his car after the first stage of the morning loop. On Saturday, Dani’s good work came undone in stage nine when he slid wide into a ditch and had to retire from the event. Thierry had now climbed into seventh overall. Onto Sunday then and Thierry climbed a further two places by the end of the day’s action, into fifth place. The team could count that as a good result, after their troubles earlier in the weekend, and I think it’s fair to say that without his problems and subsequent pace, that Thierry would have made it onto the podium.

 

Moving onto Rally Sweden and with Thierry, Andreas and Hayden driving, the team had gone for its strongest line up. Boy, did it work! Thierry led a one-two-three, with Andreas in second and Hayden third at the end of day one. Thierry maintained a good lead at the end of Saturday’s stages, with Andreas and Hayden having fallen to third and fourth. Sunday saw Thierry take victory for the team, their first victory in this event, whilst Andreas picked up third place and a spin for Hayden saw the Kiwi fall to fifth place. Thierry’s victory moved him into the championship lead as well, eleven points ahead of Seb.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, Rally Sweden
15-18 February 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The following event, Rally Mexico, would be a completely different challenge of course! Joining Thierry and Andreas for this round would be Dani Sordo. He would be the early leader as well at the end of the Friday’s stages, with Andreas and Thierry in sixth and seventh respectively. The Belgian crew suffered with some technical problems, restricting their ultimate pace as well as being the first car on the road because of the championship positions. At the end of Saturday, Dani had fallen to third place after getting a puncture, whilst Andreas had moved up to fourth and Thierry was sixth after a stall and two punctures. Sunday saw Dani complete a good drive to second overall, whilst Andreas and Thierry finished in fourth and sixth. Seb moved back into the championship lead, with Thierry now four points behind.

 

Next up was the twists and turns of Tour de Corse! Dani started his third event of the year, lining up with Thierry and Andreas. At the end of day one, Thierry held second overall, thirty seconds behind Seb. Dani held seventh, after struggling with the handling of the car, whilst Andreas suffered an off and a spin and held ninth. At the end of day two, Thierry had fallen behind a fast charging Ott, but remained in the hunt for second place. After making some changes to their cars, Dani and Andreas both improved their positions to fifth and eighth. On the final day Thierry couldn’t catch Ott, and this meant he’d finish in third, whilst Dani was fourth and Andreas seventh. It was a troubling event for the Norwegian, where he was not on the pace.

 

With a starting line-up the same as the previous round, there was some consistency for the team for Rally Argentina, and after the first day Thierry, Dani and Andreas were in third, fourth and seventh. Andreas had led early on, but unfortunately a puncture put him out of the battle for the lead. After Saturday’s stages, each driver had moved up the standings, with Thierry and Dani holding second and third, whilst Andreas had moved into fifth overall after making some changes to the car which helped give him confidence. On the final day, the team secured a double podium, the second in a row whilst Andreas finished in fifth after a battle with Ogier who finished a few seconds ahead. The team had increased it’s lead in the manufacturer’s championship, whilst Thierry had reduced Ogier’s championship lead to just ten points.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 04 Rallye de France
05-08 April 2018
Action
Day 2
Dani Sordo, Carlos Del Barrio, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Three weeks later, it was time for Rally de Portugal! Alongside Thierry and Andreas and Dani, Hayden Paddon would return to the team for this event. After day one, when the team took six stage victories Thierry held an almost twenty second lead over Elfyn, and Dani was also doing well, holding third. Sadly, Hayden and Andreas they would not finish the day. Andreas suffered some technical problems firstly with his powersteering and then oil pressure problems. Hayden went off the road unfortunately, after avoiding a rock that was hidden. The Kiwi wouldn’t restart as a precaution, after he and Seb were taken to hospital. Following Saturday’s stages, Thierry was holding a thirty-nine second lead over Elfyn, with Dani holding third after another good day for the Spaniard. Thierry continued his consistent pace through Sunday’s stages to take his second victory of the season and thus took the championship lead from Seb Ogier. Dani lost his third place due to a time penalty, which was gained after the final stage of Saturday, but fought back to within 13 seconds of third place, ultimately finishing in fifth. Andreas’ problems on Friday kept him in the lower parts of the standings, finishing in sixteenth place.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 06, Rally de Portugal 17-20 May 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The following event, Rally Italia Sardegna saw Hayden, Thierry and Andreas line up, whilst Dani would sit this one out. Rain on day one helped championship leader Thierry, finish day one 18 seconds from Seb Ogier who led this event. Kiwi, Hayden tried lots of things to get on the pace, but just struggled, whilst Andreas saw his hopes for a good result disappear (he was the early leader), after his car developed a transmission issue, leaving it stuck in reverse. Day two saw Thierry close on the Frenchman for the lead after he took three stage victories, closing to just 3.9 seconds of the M-Sport driver, whilst Hayden improved to fourth overall. Andreas re-joined the action and set some good times, but was rueing the problems on Friday. The final day saw Thierry snatch victory from Seb in the final stage, winning by just seven tenths of a second and he also took the maximum power stage points too! Hayden completed the event in fourth place, having increased his lead over Mads throughout the day and Andreas took fourth in the power stage and two points.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 07, Rally Italia Sardegna
7-10 June 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Austral
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

After the summer break, the team came to Rally Finland and were leading both championships for drivers/co-drivers and team by a big margin. The drivers lining up were Thierry, Andreas and Hayden. This event had not been kind to Hyundai in the past. It would prove to be the same again, after Thierry, who was opening the road, was struggling for grip and then went off into a ditch during stage five finishing the day in tenth. Andreas made a mistake too, after a misheard note sent him into a small low speed roll and also a penalty after checking in late after lunchtime service. Best placed driver was Hayden, who finished day one in fourth. After Saturday’s stages, Hayden, who had driven consistently well, finished in fifth place, having been passed by 2017 winner Lappi. The Kiwi was just nine seconds from the Finn. Sadly, Thierry was still in tenth overall, after being second on the road, rueing the troubles from Friday and thus a poor starting position on Saturday. Andreas moved closer to the top ten, finishing in eleventh. The final day saw Hayden move into fourth, after Lappi went off the road. This also saw Thierry and Andreas move up a place, with the Belgian completing the event in ninth and Andreas getting tenth.

 

Next up was the all tarmac event of Rally Germany. Dani re-joined Thierry and Andreas. A good day one saw Thierry hold third overall behind his championship rivals, whilst Dani was sixth and Andreas ninth. The Norwegian was trying to change his driving style, but was struggling. Day two saw Dani take three stage victories and moved up into second, with Thierry now fourth after struggling with car handling and a better day for Andreas saw him move up into sixth. The last day saw Thierry finish in second, despite a mistake in the power stage. Dani’s hopes of a good result ended when he went and crashed his car into the vineyards that line the stages. Meanwhile, Andreas finished in sixth.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship, Round 10, Rallye Deutschland 17 – 20 August 2017, Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Photographer: RaceEMotion, Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

The return of Rally Turkey to the championship saw a completely new event for all the drivers. Hayden joined Thierry and Andreas. Day one saw Thierry hold an unexpected lead over Seb, despite opening the road. Andreas also had a good day too, holding third, just 2.6 from the lead, whilst Hayden was further back in sixth place. The stages got rougher, not smoother after each car. A dramatic Saturday saw Thierry retire from the lead, after his suspension broke and came through his bonnet! Then Andreas took the lead, only then the suffer from driveshaft failure, leaving him with only rear-wheel drive and struggling for pace therefore, but he was still in fifth place. Through all of this came Hayden finishing the day in third place after a considered drive in the exceptionally rough stages. The final day saw Hayden finish in third, taking his first podium of the year after a very good drive. Andreas finished in fifth, whilst Thierry struck back, taking the power stage win and was now holding a lead of 13 points from Ott who had passed Ogier in the championship.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 10, Rally Turkey
13-16 september 2018
Hayden Paddon, Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Wales Rally GB followed, and was much earlier in the championship. Hayden once again was in the line-up with Thierry and Andreas. After Friday, Thierry held second place, from Ott. The Belgian had found the morning stages tricky, what with opening the road and his car not giving him that much confidence, but things improved in the afternoon. Hayden held seventh place, after sliding off briefly in one of the morning stages, whilst Andreas was all at sea, struggling with his car, and unable to set any good times. Saturday, saw a big twist in the championship! Second placed Thierry lost control of his car in the second stage of the day, and lost loads of time and places, falling to ninth, whilst Andreas found some improvements and moved up to sixth after winning three stages. Hayden drove well too, and was seventh. Thierry did improve by the end of the day, finishing in eighth, but was rueing his mistake, as without it, he would have been leading the event. The final day saw the drivers secure fifth, sixth and seventh, with Thierry leading home Andreas and Hayden.

2018 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 11, Wales Rally GB
04-07 october 2018
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Rally Spain followed and Dani re-joined the team for his last event of the year. At the end of Friday, Dani held a very strong second overall, whilst Andreas was sixth. As championship leader, Thierry opened the road and struggled with the gravel stages, completing the day in ninth. After day two, Thierry moved up into fifth, courtesy of two fastest stage times. Dani took the lead briefly, before falling behind in trickier conditions in the afternoon, ultimately completing the day in sixth, but still in touch. Andreas had an even worse day though, dropping down the order to tenth. Rain on the final morning stages changed things a bit, but ultimately when the stages dried out in time for the rerun, the finishing positions were Thierry in fourth, Dani sixth and Andreas tenth. Thierry was only half a second behind finishing on the podium, and was now three points behind Ogier in their championship battle.

 

It was the last round and both championships were up for grabs. The gap between Seb and Thierry was very small, whilst the gap between Hyundai and Toyota was twelve points. Hayden would start as well, looking to support Thierry with his championship bid in this title decider! After day one, Hayden was the best placed of the three crews, despite tyre coming off the rim on a jump, completing the day in fourth, just a few seconds behind third. Thierry        had a mixed day, winning stage five and then also after a tyre came off having landed heavily from a jump in stage six and dropping to tenth. Andreas had another bad day, after having to avoid a tractor which was repositioning some bales for the chicane in stage six, he then went off and had to retire for the day. Hayden’s weekend got better on Saturday, as he took two stage victories and moved up into third overall. With Thierry second on the road, he’d struggle to set the stages on fire, and completed the day in eighth, whilst Andreas who was opening the road continued to struggle, and was way down the order, after having to re-join under Rally2. The last day saw Hayden take the teams eleventh podium and his second of the year. Sadly, there was no championship success for either the team or Thierry, who retired from the event after clipping a tree, thus breaking his suspension. Andreas finished in eleventh place.

 

Summing up the year for this team, they took three victories and led both championships for long periods as well but fell short in the end. Looking at the season, I’d say their bid for the titles started to unravel at Rally Finland, where they just were not on the pace. Thierry made his best bid to be champion though, and for him, the bid ended in Wales, when he slid off the road, losing 40 seconds. As we know, Seb Ogier came through to win there and put him in a good position in the end.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen’s season peaked in Rally Sweden and from there, what with reliability problems and lack of pace elsewhere he didn’t really shine. He will be under pressure to deliver in 2019.

Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon did well with their part-seasons. The Spaniard showed good pace even leading some events, and that is why he has a deal for 2019.

However, despite Hayden picking up two podiums, after good drives in Turkey and Australia, he was only offered a single event. Very odd, considering Thierry and him are the only drivers to have won for the team

In the off season, we’ve found out that Seb Loeb will be driving for the team, signed to do six rounds per year in the next two years. The other news is that Andrea Adamo has become Team Director, after Michel Nandan stepped down from the team and company.

What will 2019 bring? Not long to wait now!