On a dramatic and exciting final day of Rally Australia, our Belgian crew of Thierry and Nicolas registered our fourth victory of the season.
Hayden and Seb were on course for a fourth-place finish heading into the Power Stage. However, late drama for Jari-Matti Latvala, who was forced to stop mid-stage, saw our Anglo-Kiwi crew promoted to third position – and onto the podium.
“That was exactly what we wanted to achieve!” commented our Team Principal Michel. “Our first-ever victory in Australia and a double podium is the perfect way to end the season.”
“This is a very special victory, and I dedicate it to everyone in the whole team” added Thierry. “They have been working hard all season long. It hasn’t always been easy but they have never given up – not only those at the rallies, but also everyone at the factory. Now, we can enjoy this moment before turning our attention to next year.”
Sunshine on a rainy day
The final day of action was scheduled to include five stages, two runs through Pilbara Reverse (9.93km) and Wedding Bells (6.44km), as well as tackling the longer 31.90km Bucca test.
Heavy rain from the start of the day made for challenging circumstances with standing water and unpredictable rainfall making some stages a lottery. Ultimately, conditions were so bad that event organisers were forced to cancel the penultimate stage, the repeat of Pilbara Reverse.
Run in brighter conditions for its second pass, Wedding Bells played host to a thrilling Power Stage. Aiming to complete a difficult season with a fine fourth place, Hayden and Seb celebrated an unexpected podium.
Right place, right time
“We never want to score a podium through someone else’s misfortune,” commented Hayden. “It’s unfortunate for Jari-Matti but the podium is a nice result for us after a tough year. There is some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of finding our feeling with the car.”
Andreas and Anders completed the event under Rally 2 after the disappointment of retiring from the lead on Saturday. Our Norwegian crew picked up two Power Stage points as a consolation, and are already looking ahead to next season.
“It has been a very valuable experience over these past three rallies with Hyundai Motorsport. I know I am in the right place for next season; the car is awesome and the team is fantastic. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a strong championship challenge together next year.”
Save the best for last
Our crews totalled an impressive 14 stage wins in Australia, the most for our team in a single event. It was the culmination of a competitive year in which we have taken victories on three different continents, on gravel and tarmac, and with versatile performances from our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
“We have plenty of positives to take away from this year,” reflected Michel. “It has been one of the most closely contested seasons in WRC. Thanks to our rivals for some exciting battles throughout the season, and a fantastic year of competition. My thanks also to every member of our team in Alzenau for their individual contributions to our season – and to our partners and fans.”
Although the 2017 season is over, thoughts already turn to the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, which will get underway with Rallye Monte-Carlo on 25-28 January. The season will be formally launched at a special event during the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, UK on Thursday 11 January.
Final Overall Classification – Rally Australia
1. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2:35:44.8
2. O. Tänak / M. Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +22.5
3. H. Paddon / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.1
4. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:27.7
5. E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:05.6
6. E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:49.5
7. K. Meeke / P. Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +22:58.4
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers’ Standings
After round 13
1. S. Ogier 232
2 T. Neuville 208
3. O. Tanak 191
4. J.M Latvala 136
5. E. Evans 128
6. D. Sordo 95
7. K. Meeke 77
8. H. Paddon 74
9. J. Hänninen 71
10. C. Breen 64
11. E. Lappi 62
12. A. Mikkelsen 54
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ Standings
After round 13
1. M-Sport World Rally Team 428
2. Hyundai Motorsport 345
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 251
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 218
All results remain subject to official FIA confirmation.