Rallye Monte-Carlo – 22-25 January 2016
The season began in Monaco for Rallye Monte-Carlo, which is the oldest rally on the WRC calendar, having been first organised in 1911. It was also the first event held in the inaugural FIA World Rally Championship in 1973, and has continued to serve as the season-opener ever since.
It was a strong start for the Hyundai Motorsport team as they debuted the 2016 New Generation i20 WRC car, with Thierry Neuville finishing in third place, while Spaniard Dani Sordo finished sixth. Hayden Paddon had a tough introduction to Monte-Carlo’s famously tricky stages, but performed well and gained valuable experience while setting a number of top-six stage times.
The 2016 WRC season was the most successful yet for Hyundai Motorsport. The team finished in second place, landing many podium positions along the way. Here are some highlights from the past year.
Rally Sweden – 12-14 February 2016
Traditionally the coldest event on the calendar, temperatures have been known to dip to as low as -30°C at Rally Sweden, which is the only event of the season held exclusively on snow-covered roads.
Paddon secured the team’s second podium finish in the first two rounds of the 2016 WRC rounds, despite hitting a wooden post and suffering a radiator leak just before the end of the final stage. The Kiwi finished in second place, while Sordo finished sixth for the second consecutive race. Melville finished 14th, but picked up six valuable points for the team.
Rally Mexico – 3-6 March 2016
Rally Mexico was created in 1979 with the aim of boosting rallying in the country. It ran for six years in the State of Mexico and moved on to a number of other locations, before moving to Léon in 1998, where it has been held ever since. One of the stages – the gigantic Guanajuato – is the longest of the whole WRC season, stretching 80km.
Although Thierry Neville had to retire early from the race, it remained a cause for celebration for the team, as Dani Sordo’s third place finish made it three podiums in three events for Hyundai Motorsport. Hayden Paddon’s held on to fifth to ensure two HMSG drivers were in the top five.
Rally Argentina – 21-24 April 2016
Established in 1980, Rally Argentina has been held in its present home in Cordoba since 1984, and features a gravel surface. 2016’s event was one for particular cause for celebration for Hyundai Motorsport, as Hayden Paddon celebrated his first win, and the team’s debut victory with the New Generation i20 WRC car. With his victory, Hayden became the 19th different driver in 36 years to win Rally Argentina.
This was also the first time one of the HMSG crews claimed the maximum 28 points during the rally – 25 for an event victory and 3 for a Power Stage win. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo came fourth, and Thierry Neuville finished in sixth, rounding off a successful weekend.
Rally de Portugal – 19-22 May 2016
First run in 1967, Rally de Portugal was a regular feature on the WRC calendar from 1973 until 2002, as a mixed surface event. It returned to the championship in 2009 as an all-gravel test, and attracts the highest number of spectators for any European rally, with fans often packing out the spectator areas and travelling deep into the forest!
One of the toughest rallies of the season, Dani Sordo secured Hyundai Motorsport’s best-ever finish in Portugal, finishing in fourth. The famous Fafe jump provided a lot of excitement for the enthusiastic crowd.
Rally d’Italia – 9-12 June 2016
Known as the “Rally of the Flowers” when it was first held in 1928, Rally d’Italia has been in its current location on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia since 2004, and attracts over 100,000 spectators annually.
In 2016’s event, Thierry Neuville dominated the field to win his second rally as a member of Hyundai Motorsport, securing the team’s second win of the season in the process. The Belgian put in the performance of his career with nine stage wins and a dominant rally overall. Dani Sordo also finished Rally Sardinia strongly, taking his fourth consecutive fourth-placed finish.
Rally Poland – 30 June – 3 July 2016
One of the oldest events on the FIA WRC calendar, having first run in 1921, Rally Poland was also the shortest event on the calendar by stage distance, with a total of 306.1 competitive kilometres. Hayden Paddon reached the podium in 2016 with a third-placed finish, with Thierry Neuville just behind in fourth. Sadly, Dani Sordo couldn’t continue his good form, and was forced to retire.
Rally Finland – 28-31 July 2016
Also know as the Rally of 1,000 Lakes, this event has been dominated by home drivers throughout its history, with 54 of the 65 editions of the rally having been won by Finnish drivers. It boasted the fastest average speed of any event on the WRC calendar in 2016, clocking 126.6 km/h.
Two HMSG crews made the top six in the 2016 event, with just a gap of 2.3 seconds between Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon, in fourth and fifth place respectively.
Rallye Deutschland – 19-21 August 2016
Officially established in 1982, Rallye Deutschland didn’t become a part of the FIA WRC calendar until 2002. It is Hyundai Motorsport’s home event, located just a couple of hundred kilometres away from the team’s headquarters in Alzenau.
A thrilling finale saw Dani Sordo claim second place, just one-tenth-of-a-second ahead of teammate Thierry Neuville. Hayden Paddon wasn’t far behind either, finishing in fifth.
What a finish! We knew it was going to be close but I don’t think anyone predicted it would be that tense.
Rallye de France – 30 September – 2 October 2016
Based on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the first rally event took place in 1956. The Tour de Corse has the fewest number of stage, but is one of the longest on the WRC calendar in terms of overall distance – 390km. Thierry Neuville claimed HMSG’s first ever podium in Corsica at the 2016 event, finishing in second place. Hayden Paddon finished sixth, while Dani Sordo came in seventh place.
Rally de Espana – 13-16 October 2016
Formerly known as the Rally de Catalunya, which ran for the first time in 1957, the event quickly grew to become the most important and prestigious rally in the country. It became part of the WRC Calendar in 1991, and is the only event to run on two separate surfaces. Day one’s action is run on gravel roads, while days two and three see drivers tackle asphalt surfaces.
Homecoming king Dani Sordo clinched second place, with Thierry Neuville in third to ensure the team achieved one of their two double podiums of the season. Hayden Paddon also made it into the top five, with a fourth place finish.
Wales Rally GB – 27-30 October 2016
Wales Rally GB’s history stretches all the way back to 1932, when over 367 crews entered the rally organised by the Royal Automobile Club. In the past, the route has included tests scattered around England, Scotland and Wales, but since the year 2000 has been solely based in Wales – though 2016 did see stages in England.
All three Hyundai Motorsport drivers finished in the top six in 2016, with Thierry Neuville clinching a spot on the podium in third place. Haydon Paddon demonstrated more consistency to land fourth, while Dani Sordo claimed sixth.
Rally Australia – 17-20 November 2016
The first edition of Rally Australia took place in 1988, as part of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the event made its debut on the WRC calendar just a year later. It represented the longest journey of the season for the team. Coffs Harbour is 16,298 km from Alzenau in a direct line.
The final race of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship was one to savour for the Hyundai Motorsport team, with Thierry Neuville claiming his fifth consecutive top-three result with a third place finish to end the season in second place overall. Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo also fared well Down Under, finishing in fourth and fifth respectively, to ensure HSMG finished in second place in the Manufacturers’ Standings.