Hyundai visits podium again in Rally Finland

Hyundai Motorsport has finished Rally Finland, round nine of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season, with Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe in a superb second place – marking their sixth podium finish of the season.

Neuville and Wydaeghe consolidated their strong performance on the complex and demanding routes to confirm their first Rally Finland podium as a crew.

Sunday featured an all-new itinerary for the final day, with four stages contested in fair weather conditions. Although their target was a steady and cautious drive through the stages, the Belgian Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew continued to show strong pace in their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. 

Treating SS20 Himos-Jämsä 1 as a recce for the event’s Power Stage, Neuville and Wydaeghe registered the second-fastest time. They repeated the feat on SS21 Moksi-Sahloinen and in the Power Stage itself, scoring four additional championship points.

It was a gripping final day in the battle for third place, with Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula narrowly missing out on a podium position after a concerted effort. In a bid to give them the best chance at success, the team made the tactical decision to have no spare tyre in their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. The crew went on to demonstrate some fine Finnish flair, setting top-three times on every stage as they pushed hard to overturn the deficit.

The strategy began well with the Finns taking 1,9 seconds out of Takamoto Katsuta’s advantage on SS19 Moksi-Sahloinen 1. A wild run through SS20 Himos-Jämsä 1 underscored how determined the Finns were for a home podium as they used every inch of road to find a way past the Toyota, yet the gap grew to over seven seconds. The repeat of Moksi-Sahloinen saw the Finns claw back one second, however the time then proved unassailable. A final flourish on the Power Stage saw them finish third, scoring three extra points, but they had to settle for fourth overall.

Neuville has narrowed the gap in the championship standings with just 36 points separating the top three in the drivers’ standings, while Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team remains in second place in the manufacturers’ battle. The team heads to the next round, the Acropolis Rally, in high spirits as it looks to defend its clean sweep of the podium positions.

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe

Neuville said: “It is a big relief to be back on the Rally Finland podium after ten years of what I would say was a struggle. It shows that the team and the changes that are ongoing are heading in the right direction. I think it’s clearly a sign that we have to carry on. I’m happy we have a bit of a break as this weekend was quite exhausting, but we have done the job. Thank you to the team.”

Crew Notes: Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula

Suninen said: “I would say the result itself is quite good even if there is some disappointment to miss out the podium. There is a lot to process after these two rallies that will help prepare the next one and come back stronger. It has been a pleasure working with the Hyundai Motorsport team, they are really supporting me and giving me everything they can. I’m really looking forward to the next rally together.” 

Hyundai Motorsport team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “While today’s result is a strong one and positive for the championship, we can see we are still missing out and we need to make more steps like we have done recently if we want to become a constant contender against Toyota. Teemu had a number of very strong moments over the weekend. There is a bit of frustration that he is not on the podium, but having that in only your second rally is a sign of our shared ambition.

“We know these fast rallies don’t necessarily show our car at its best, but it is the work going on behind the scenes in the factory that has helped us to improve the car, show consistency and reliability, so I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone. Finally, we look forward seeing Esapekka back with Dani and Thierry in Greece after a well-deserved break for most of the rally community.”

Next rally

The tenth round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship will be the legendary Acropolis Rally, from 7 to 10 September, around Lamia, Greece.