Mon 14 Aug 2023

What can we take from Hyundai's Finland pace?

Was it man? Was it machine? Was it a bit of both? Third option is the most likely explanation for Thierry Neuville’s pace at last week’s Secto Rally Finland.

The amiable Belgian came closer to a Jyväskylä win than he’s been in a decade. When he crossed the line on Sunday, he was just 39.1 seconds behind Toyota’s winner Elfyn Evans. When he finished second to then Volkswagen driver Sébastien Ogier aboard a Ford Fiesta RS WRC in 2013, he was 36.6sec off the Frenchman.

That, for Neuville, is progress when you consider the miserable results he’s suffered on the season’s fastest rally in the intervening years.

The decision to locate the team’s permanent test base in central Finland was a curious one last year – but it was also understandable. Toyota has become something of a dominant force in the World Rally Championship, so a copy and paste of the champ’s long-term test plan is never going to be a bad thing.

Finland – and Estonia – was quite possibly representative of that work behind the scenes.

And anybody wanting to point to Ott Tänak’s 2022 Rally Finland win as evidence that, perhaps, Neuville’s second place is a step backwards would do well to remember the Ott effect from 12 months ago. The pace, drive and determination to Estonian showed to put one over the Finns in their own backyard was exceptional.

So, what now for Hyundai? Back to Greece. And how did that go last year? Not bad. Try a podium lock-out: a Neuville-Tänak-Sordo top three.

It’s no surprise there’s plenty to smile about down Alzenau way right now.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM