A dramatic final day at Rally de Portugal saw the Hyundai Motorsport team claim their 50th WRC podium result after Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul fought hard right to the end to secure second place, picking up four extra points in the Power Stage.
As the 2019 season reaches its halfway mark, with seven events completed, Hyundai Motorsport holds onto the lead in the manufacturers' championship with a 20-point lead. Neuville, meanwhile, retains third place in the closely contested drivers' championship, 10 points behind leader Sébastien Ogier.
Fans flocked to the famous Fafe jump on the final morning last Sunday to see the WRC cars fly through to the finish in spectacular fashion. It was a fitting end to a gruelling weekend.
For Hyundai Motorsport the rally was hampered from the opening day when the i20 WRC Coupé of Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio as well as the i20 of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were affected by technical issues on the third special stage, Arganil. Dropping down the order, Hyundai then had to regroup as a team to salvage as many points as possible from the weekend.
The combined team efforts paid off, and team director Andrea Adamo was quick to praise the work of all three crews, but in particular the Belgians. "Thierry and Nicolas are having a great season with the tools we are giving them," he said. "They continue to score results that flatter our performance level. I am upset that our issues on Friday prevented our two other crews from competing for the podium - another missed opportunity."
For Neuville, his fifth podium of the season was a welcome result. "After the big crash we had in Chile, it was important to come back fighting," he said. "It's not been an entirely smooth weekend, but we have shown some strong pace, including several stage wins. The championship is nicely poised as we reach the halfway point."
Sordo and Del Barrio led the rally briefly on Friday morning on the first day of the rally. They scored two stage wins and ended a difficult event with a Power Stage point. "We tried to put the disappointment and frustration from Friday behind us, and to enjoy these great Portuguese stages," said Sordo. "We have put in a full team effort this weekend, so I think we all share in the podium result, even if it would have been nicer to be standing on the podium ourselves."
Loeb and Elena were also unable to reap the rewards of a strong performance. "We were able to set some competitive times, which shows what might have been," said Loeb. "I am happy for the team to get a podium finish after what has been a tough event." Loeb and Elena's rally ended before the finish in the final stage on Sunday when they had to retire after their i20 WRC Coupé hit a bank.
The championship moves to Rally Italia Sardegna, which takes place from 13 to 16 June with Neuville/Gilsoul, Sordo/Del Barrio and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland driving Hyundai Motorsport's trio of i20 Coupé WRC cars.