The success for the Korean squad comes with an event to spare following the decision to cancel the WRC finale around Rally Australia’s host town of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales due to severe bushfires.
Hyundai Motorsportcame away from last month’s penultimate round in Spain with a commanding 18 point lead over defending champions Toyota Gazoo Racing. After narrowly missing out on the title on three previous occasions, they have now clinched the Manufacturers’ crown for the first time and in team director Andrea Adamo’s first season in charge.
The success for Hyundai Motorsport is all the more remarkable considering they were only established at the end of 2012. In that short time, the team has gradually built up its title-winning credentials over the course of six seasons which has seen them narrowly finish as runners-up for the Manufacturers’ title on three consecutive occasions between 2016 and 2018. Adamo and his team were understandably determined to go one better this term, and their hard work and persistence has delivered its most accomplished and consistent performances to date in WRC and as a result brought its rewards with the coveted Manufacturers’ crown.
It is fitting that lead driver Thierry Neuville has spearheaded Hyundai’s title-winning campaign. Neuville, who has been with the team since it rejoined the WRC in 2014, effectively sealed the title with his third win in Spain, lifting the squad clear on the standings. The Belgian has also had a strong support cast which included the surprise signing of nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb who committed to the team for six rounds of the Championship. They were joined by Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo, and along with Craig Breen added to the crew for two cameo roles in the i20 World Rally Car in the second part of the season, the quality of the team and its rotation policy were two key elements to what proved a winning formula.
In total, Hyundai claimed four victories in 2019 en route to the manufacturers’ title – at Tour de Corse, Rally Argentina, Rally Italia Sardegna and Rally de España – as well as picking upan impressive 13 individual podium results. Neuville for his part also finished the season in second in the drivers’ classification and has now been a runner-up in the drivers’ standings on four occasions since he joined Team Hyundai in 2014.
Image credit: Eurosport
The 2019 season has not been without its challenges for Hyundai with, as expected, some fierce opposition from its competition rivals. The team have had to dig deep and call on all their experience throughout the campaign, to first overtake long time championship leaders Toyota, and then build and maintain their advantage at the top of the WRC standings.A series of accidents and set-backs could not deter the team’s desire and ambition to land the title which were laid out at the start of the year under Adamo. As Breen alluded to, the team has been so strategic by wisely using different drivers at different events which has enabled Hyundai to be in the position to achieve their goals.
Mikkelsen and co-driver Anders Jaeger took three podiums and played a major role in the team’s best result of the season with a 1-2 finish at Rally Argentina which proved pivotal. Equally Loeb and Elena occupied the top three spots at Rally Chile which further demonstrated the squad’s strength in depth across the whole of the campaign.
Adamo paid tribute to the hard work from everyone in the squad, saying “This season has been incredibly tough and competitive. For sure we wished we could have fought until the end but we can all be proud of all our individual achievements as team members to make this a great collective win.
“I would like to personally thank everyone at Hyundai Motorsport and all our crews who gave their full dedication from Rallye Monte-Carlo until now,” he said.
Echoing the sentiments of everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, its President Scott Noh had mixed feelings about lifting the title alongside concern for the residents in the host town of Coffs Harbour and the wider region.
“First of all our thoughts are with all those affected by the devastating bushfires in the New South Wales region of Australia and elsewhere,” he said.“We are immensely proud to secure our first ever FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title after a highly competitive season against tough opposition.
“Since the establishment of Hyundai Motorsport in 2012, we have built up a dedicated team at our factory in Alzenau, who have worked tirelessly to achieve this goal.
“This is a collective achievement, one that we will share with the Hyundai family around the world. We hope, too, that it will be the first title of many more to come in the future.”
Hyundai will now use the off-season to prepare for the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship with strong indications they will field a revised crew line-up in an attempt to defend their manufacturers’ title.