Thierry Neuville takes Drivers’ Championship lead after Rally Finland

  • Hyundai Motorsport has endured a disappointing weekend in Rally Finland, with none of its three crews able to mount a challenge for the podium
  • Thierry Neuville finished in sixth place, picking up eight points. By scoring three extra Power Stage points, he has taken the lead of the Drivers’ Championship
  • Dani Sordo finished in ninth, while Hayden Paddon completed a tough weekend under Rally 2 conditions on Sunday morning.

- Hyundai Motorsport has completed Rally Finland, the ninth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with Thierry Neuville finishing highest of the team’s three crews in sixth position.

Dani Sordo claimed ninth position, with Hayden Paddon resuming a frustrating event under Rally 2 conditions on Sunday morning with a handful of top-six stage times.

Sunday’s itinerary covered a repeat loop of the short 6.80km Lempää and 10.12km Oittila stages over a total distance of just 33.84km. Despite the brevity of the stages, there was no holding back with close battles at the front and important Power Stage points up for grabs.

Top of the table

Taking eight points for his sixth-placed finish, Neuville added three extra points for finishing third in the Power Stage. They were vital points for the Belgian, as he has moved to the lead of the Drivers’ Championship on 160 points, the same as Sébastien Ogier.

However, Neuville’s three wins this year put him ahead of the Frenchman on the leaderboard. There are 34 points separating Hyundai Motorsport from Manufacturers’ Championship leaders M-Sport, with four rounds of the season left to contest.

It has been an uncharacteristically low-key weekend for the Hyundai Motorsport team, who just three weeks ago, in Poland, registered its best-combined performance in the WRC.

With just a solitary stage win in Friday’s closing Harju test, the three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews have struggled to find pace, rhythm or confidence on Finland’s notoriously high-speed, jump-filled gravel roads.

Falling short in Finland

Rally Finland has never been a strong event for Hyundai Motorsport, and 2017 has continued that trend. Despite showing the versatile performance of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in a variety of conditions this season, the team has not matched its rivals on the Finnish stages, which require utmost precision and commitment from the crews.

We expected this rally to be more difficult than others but we never thought we would be missing so much pace compared to our competitors. All in all, we are disappointed, as we could not reach our pre-rally objective to step on the podium. We have some work to do on this specific terrain and we can now focus on the next two events, which should be better suited to the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. On a positive note, Thierry has managed to pick some very important points, and he has now taken the lead of the Championship. This sets things up for a very exciting final four events. Finally, we send our congratulations to Esapekka Lappi for his debut WRC victory, and to everyone at Toyota Gazoo Racing for a great home result.

Michel NandanTeam Principal

Home sweet home

Hyundai Motorsport will aim to learn lessons from Finland, but look to put the disappointment quickly behind them with its home event next on the calendar. Rallye Deutschland, the first tarmac event since Tour de Corse, will take place from 17-20 August.

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