Hyundai Motorsport has taken its third victory of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a superb double podium finish in Rally de España.
Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe enjoyed a near-perfect weekend in the all-tarmac rally to confirm their second win of the season, with team-mates Dani Sordo and Cándido Carrera in third – their first podium as a crew and Sordo’s second of the year.
The 1-3 finish repeats the team’s result in the last iteration of Rally de España that took place on mixed surface roads in 2019. Hyundai Motorsport asserted its authority this year by taking 14 stage wins out of a possible 17 across three days of action – 10 for Neuville and 4 for Sordo.
The Spanish crew were in dominant form during the final morning of the rally, winning all four stages – two runs through Santa Marina (SS14/SS16, 9,10 km) and Riudecanyes (SS15/SS17, 16,35 km). The duo had been involved in an exhilarating third-place battle with Sébastien Ogier for much of the rally and got the upper hand when it counted, leapfrogging the Frenchman on Sunday’s opening stage.
Neuville and Wydaeghe backed them up strongly with a Hyundai 1-2 on the first loop. It wasn’t an entirely trouble-free finale for the Belgian crew as an engine starter motor issue prior to the Power Stage created some nervous moments, as well as the onset of wet weather conditions. However, they were able to make the start and complete their triumphant weekend with the second-fastest time in the repeat of Riudecanyes – right behind their Spanish teammates who took maximum Power Stage points.
Victory in Spain heralds Neuville’s 15th win as a Hyundai Motorsport driver and the team’s 20th in total in WRC. For Sordo, his 14th podium for the team represents his 50th career podium.
Adding 2 more podium results to Hyundai’s 2021 tally means that the Alzenau-based team has 16 individual top-three finishes, its highest ever in a single season. The team also broke through the 100-stage win barrier on Saturday. Picking up a bumper haul of points from the weekend means that the manufacturers’ championship title will roll onto the season finale, Rally Monza.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe:
“I am relieved to get to the end of this rally, to be honest. It has been a tough weekend, and not without its challenges. We have fought incredibly hard across all stages, taking a lot of fastest times, and gradually extending our advantage,” said Neuville.
“The result itself probably doesn’t show how much we’ve had to work. We had a good clean run until the final stage; everything was working perfectly up to that point. Unfortunately, we had a lot of stress before the Power Stage with an engine starter motor issue. That was the only disappointing aspect of an otherwise positive rally.”
Crew Notes: Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera:
“Honestly you can’t imagine how happy I am, not only for myself but also for Cándido, as it is our first podium working together. He has been working really hard to get us to this level. We couldn’t have done any more, we have pushed in every stage,” said Sordo.
Thanks to all my family and the supporters, who have been cheering us on this weekend. We have been involved in a fantastic battle with Sébastien and it has been a pleasure to drive here.”
Team Principal Andrea Adamo said: “I am delighted for my team because we have once again fought until the very end. It has been a tough rally, and a Power Stage that only thriller writers could have scripted – rain and late drama that generated a lot of emotions.
“We have achieved everything we could have this weekend. Thierry and Martijn have been amazing from start to finish, and they thoroughly deserve this win. What a composed and assured performance from them. Dani and Cándido have also accomplished something special. It would have been easy to settle into a comfortable rhythm on the final morning, but they pushed hard to claim third place and a clean sweep of stage wins. Full attack. We have extended the championship battle until the season finale at Monza, which at least gives the fans something to see – we fight until the end.”
Rally Monza, the 12th and final round of the 2021 championship, will take place in Italy from 19 to 21 November. Hyundai Motorsport secured a double podium finish at the Italian round in 2020 with Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo in second and third places respectively.