Hyundai claims another podium finish in Rally New Zealand

Hyundai Motorsport has claimed a podium finish on Sunday 2 October in its first-ever participation in Rally New Zealand, round 11 of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja extended their run of consecutive podiums when they finished in 3rd place – their 7th top-three performance of the season so far. The result marks their 15th podium for Hyundai Motorsport in total.

The Estonian crew headed a trio of Hyundai i20 N Rally1 crews with Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe and Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson in 4th and 5th positions respectively after the 17-stage rally.

Wet, slippery, and challenging conditions have offered teams and crews a stern test with the picturesque and exhilarating New Zealand roads providing plenty of drama. For Hyundai Motorsport, the rally has been a complicated one with several issues preventing the team from performing at the same level as its rally-winning displays in Finland, Ypres, and Greece.

Tänak had initially looked in contention for a victory push on the opening days, claiming three stage wins, and completing Friday on top of the overall classification. However, a tough Saturday put any chance of the team’s fourth consecutive win out of reach.

Tänak and Järveoja found themselves down in second place at the start of the Saturday’s special stages after a five-second penalty was imposed on them overnight. The pair, along with Neuville/Wydaeghe, were deemed to have used excess hybrid boost on Thursday’s super special.

Tänak immediately tried to regain the lead through the opening stage on Saturday, reducing his deficit to 2,9 seconds, but an additional ten-second penalty was applied to all three Hyundai Motorsport WRC crews for a hybrid boost infringement on Friday’s Te Akau North stage, dropping Tänak to third place, where he would end the day.

Neuville experienced an issue with third gear in SS9, which necessitated a gearbox change at lunchtime service. The Belgian crew moved up to fourth overall at the start of the afternoon loop and held their position with a secure run during the remaining stages, albeit with a 55-second gap to their team-mates in third.

Solberg, meanwhile, had a clean morning but was hampered by a misfiring engine throughout the final loop. He completed Saturday’s 88,28 km of competitive stages in fifth place.

Tänak and Järveoja returned to stage-winning ways on the final morning, claiming the fastest time on SS15, and then adding four bonus points in the Power Stage. All three Hyundai i20 N Rally1 crews took Power Stage points on Sunday with Solberg in fourth and Neuville fifth.  

Crew notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja

Tänak said: “Altogether, Rally New Zealand has been a difficult weekend for us, but it’s been a great place to be, on amazing roads and fun to drive. We have not been up to the pace to fight for the win but we’re still on the podium with a good finish to add points onto the board. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve not been in the drivers’ championship fight, even if something was coming back in the middle of the season. Fair play to Toyota, and especially to Kalle, who has beaten everyone fair and square. Congratulations to them.”

Crew notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe

Neuville said: “Fourth place was about the maximum we could do this weekend with all the time penalties and the two spins we had on Friday. It was a bit of a harsh start to the event, so we really couldn’t do much more. We were just in a waiting position today, with our only chance to gain positions dependent on those in front of us. We need to work on the car in these conditions; I just don’t feel comfortable, and it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to drive and go fast.”

Crew Notes: Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (#2 Hyundai i20 N Rally1) 

Solberg, whose contract with Hyundai Motorsport ends at the conclusion of the 2022 WRC championship, said: “It has not been a perfect weekend for sure, so to come away with a fifth-place finish is a real positive. We’ve had a lot of small things occurring that prevented us from getting into a good rhythm. I tried to push a bit in the Power Stage but, again, it wasn’t great. At least we gave it a go.”

Deputy team director Julien Moncet said: “A quite frustrating rally for us and definitely not the result we came here for. We had too many issues and a general lack of pace to anything better. We will have to deeply analyse everything that went wrong and find solutions for the next events. Still, we haven’t given up and all three cars made it to the finish. Ott showed again how competitive he is, keeping pressure on the drivers in front and fighting until the end to secure another podium..

“Hyundai would like to extend its sincerest congratulations to Kalle Rovanperä and Toyota Gazoo Racing on securing the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title. We are committed to fighting at the very highest level of this championship. The results demonstrated by Kalle and Toyota act as motivation and inspiration for all of us. Their performances this season offer an impressive benchmark.

“We will not stop pushing to improve our own competitiveness and look forward to close fights in the remaining rallies of this season. Well done also to Hayden Paddon, who has scored a brilliant win in WRC2, showing again the competitiveness of our Hyundai i20 N Rally2 car.”

Next rally

The 12th and penultimate round of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally de España, takes place from 20 to 23 October.