Friday | 06 Mar 2020

This picture’s story – Mexico 2014

Beer is, if we’re honest, not unknown for enhancing the odd post-rally celebration. And Hyundai’s maiden FIA World Rally Championship podium was certainly worth celebrating.

But it’s rare to see the amber nectar playing such a pivotal part in the result as well as the celebrations. That’s exactly what happened to Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul when they emerged from Rally Guanajuato Mexico’s Power Stage in 2014.

Coming out of the El Brinco stage, the Belgians celebrated third place. Handed a litre of Corona, a sponsor of the event, they thought about popping the top and spraying it over the i20 World Rally Car which had just made Korean history.

They thought better of it and decided, instead, to take the beer back for the boys. The bottle would, they thought, be symbolic of their success. Little did they know how much they would appreciate that decision.

Within minutes of starting the 33km journey back to León for the ceremonial finish, Neuville noticed the engine temperature rising rapidly. Somewhere in the last stage, something had damaged the radiator, leaving a small hole for the coolant to drain away.

Video: Neuville's booze cruise

“We could fill the hole,” said Neuville, “that was no problem – we have the stuff with us in the car to fix this, but then we had to re-fill the radiator with water.”

There was no water.

“But there was some beer,” he said with a grin. “We took off the top and poured it in. After that we drove for a while and the temperature was going up still. I was trying not to get stressed, but it was a difficult moment when we were thinking for the team’s first podium.

“We stopped again and added more beer. After we drove some more and the temperature was not going up so much, then I knew it would be OK.”

That bottle of Corona paved the way for some hard-earned celebrations, with the i20 only having turned a wheel in testing 235 days earlier.

Then team principal Michel Nandan was overjoyed, saying: “When we come here we knew where we were because of the tests and we knew that we hadn’t done a lot of work at high altitude. The best we were hoping for was fifth place. It’s incredible to think where we have come from 12 months ago.”

And all that hard work, effort and reward ulimately came down to a litre of lager.

Rally rewind: Mexico 2019

Rally rewind: Mexico 2019

Tough gravel roads and sweltering temperatures are the hallmarks of Rally Guanajuato Mexico. Both played a pivotal part in ...

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