Hyundai´s road to glory

The feeling in Birmingham at January’s FIA World Rally Championship launch was that 2019 had to be Hyundai Motorsport’s year. Not would be, but HAD to be.

After nose-diving from the lead of the manufacturers’ championship to finish second in 2017 and 2018, there was no more room for error. And to ensure that was the case, in came larger-than-life team director Andrea Adamo to guide the Korean ship.

Adamo had plenty of resources in terms of drivers. Thierry Neuville, now five times a runner-up in the drivers’ standings, was aided by a strong support cast which included shock signing Sébastien Loeb, the nine-time world champion committing to six rounds.

Mr Consistent Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen were onboard and Craig Breen joined the crew for two cameo roles in the i20 World Rally Car in the second part of the season.

Arguably it was that strength and Adamo’s skilful driver deployment that proved the key to success. While some denounced his rotation policy as a scattergun approach, the tactical nous to use drivers on rallies at which they were best-suited was a defining factor.

After trading points with Toyota Gazoo Racing in the early rallies, Hyundai’s bid gained serious momentum when Neuville scored back-to back wins in France and Argentina. Second for Mikkelsen in south America marked the team’s best result of the year as it opened a 37-point lead.

That rose to 44 points when Sordo claimed a second career win after a dramatic final stage in Italy.

Thierry Neuville leads the celebrations in Australia

Victories in Finland, Germany and Britain for Toyota, allied to less than ideal points hauls for Hyundai, brought the Japanese manufacturer back into the running. The margin stood at only eight points as the championship headed to the penultimate round in Spain.

Fittingly Neuville, who has been with Hyundai since it rejoined the WRC in 2014, effectively sealed the title with his third win, lifting the squad 18 points clear.

The devastating bushfires in the Coffs Harbour region which brought about the cancellation of this weekend’s finale in Australia was an unavoidable way to resolve a captivating battle.

As the champagne corks popped after 13 podium finishes for the team across the season, Neuville said: “This has been a very special journey for us and it is a pleasure to say we are now an FIA World Rally Championship winning team. It’s an amazing achievement.

“We have continuously developed our car throughout the whole season. I had a consistently fast car on all surfaces, which was one of the key things for our success.

“There have been so many highlights along the way. Every victory has been important, but more than just the results, the team has grown so much over the six seasons. We have a fantastic group of dedicated, talented and professional individuals. This result is for each and every one of them.”

GALLERY

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