World Rally Championship

Sweet Swedish success

Esapekka and Janne secure victory at Rally Sweden

Esapekka and Janne secure victory at Rally Sweden

With a fantastic advantage at the head of the pack, Lappi and Ferm remained focused on the ultimate prize on Sunday’s three final stages to bring home their second WRC victory. The Finns kept their cool across 300.10km of treacherous conditions at a rally where the smallest of mistakes could have huge consequences.

Benefitting from being one of the final crews on the road, Lappi/Ferm took three stage wins on Friday in their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid to establish themselves at the top of the classification. Saturday was all about taking minimal risks to consolidate their lead, which continued to be the strategy on Sunday. The result is the crew’s first win with Hyundai Motorsport, and their second following their debut victory at Rally Finland 2017.

Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe finished third on Super Sunday and confirmed fourth position overall. The Belgians had the unenviable task of opening the road on Friday morning, which hampered them from unleashing their full potential on WRC’s sole snow rally. The crew dug in on Saturday’s afternoon loop to score three back-to-back stage wins as they moved up the order from tenth to fourth. They ended the event with a bang, leaving everything on the Power Stage – including their rear wing in the final metres – just missing out on the stage win by a mere 0.1 seconds. Neuville remains the drivers’ championship leader by three points.

Estonians Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja recovered from their Friday retirement to finish fourth in Sunday’s standings, claiming four points from the new scoring system. The duty of being first on the road fell to the #8 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid crew on Saturday; despite the disadvantage, Tänak/Järveoja secured three top-three stage times across the day, including a win on the opening test. The Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew finished the event with two additional points from the Power Stage.

Following consecutive victories in the opening rounds of the season, Hyundai Motorsport is now joint first in the manufacturers’ standings. All three of the team’s Rally Sweden crews will return for the first gravel rally of the season, Safari Rally Kenya, which will be held March 28-31.

Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Finns finish first in snowy Sweden after shrewd and calm drive
  • Victory marks the crew’s second win in the WRC

Lappi said: “This feels so good right now. I have been hunting for this second victory for quite a while. I have to say a big thanks to Cyril for keeping me in the team after a difficult second half of my 2023 season; this moment is such a huge contrast to that. A massive thank you to the team, and to my family at home as well. We are all here to win and when you achieve it, it is the best feeling in the world. It has been a brilliant rally – it could have been more entertaining with fewer retirements, but the snowbanks can be your friend or your enemy. This week they were my friend; I paid them well.”

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Crew confirms fourth overall plus third in Super Sunday
  • Neuville continues to lead the drivers’ standings with 48 points

Neuville said: “It is good to get another victory for the team. It’s important even if the performance wasn’t the greatest, especially on the first passes. However two victories in three weeks is great motivation for us – we only had two wins in the 2023 season. We had to get through without any mistakes, and I think we might have been the only crew who didn’t have any. We had to accept the situation of Friday and we hoped for a better Saturday, where we managed to climb up the rankings. I’m happy to be at the end with decent points.”

Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)

  • Tänak/Järveoja finished fourth in Super Sunday standings and in Power Stage
  • Estonians secured six consolatory points from difficult weekend

Tänak said: “It has been tricky this weekend to have the pace we needed to be fastest. Obviously the mistake on Friday was frustrating and afterwards even more so. We felt better in the car on Friday when the roads were a bit more slippery but when the grip improved we just weren’t comfortable. From my side, definitely too many mistakes to start the season but we know we can be a lot better. We’re looking forward to having a clean rally in Kenya.”

Hyundai Motorsport President and Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “It has been an exciting Rally Sweden! It’s been a long wait for EP and Janne, and they have done a mega job this weekend. I would like to thank Sean Kim for his trust in EP last year when we faced moments of doubt. We knew having a shared car would be an advantage for road position in a rally like this one, but equally the job they have done to navigate a number of challenges has been fantastic. As always, they have been extremely well supported by the team, yet we shouldn’t underestimate the reality check from Toyota this morning – their pace on that opening stage was something else. It is a good result, but the positions in the championship standings show that every single point will count towards the final result.”

Next rally

  • WRC will take on the first gravel event of the season, Safari Rally Kenya, set to be held 28-31 March
  • Hyundai Motorsport’s three crews will be Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja and Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm.

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