Hyundai Motorsport WRC Review: Round 12 - Central European Rally
- Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe have won the inaugural Central European Rally, the 12th round of 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) season
- The superb result on the treacherous tarmac marks the Belgians’ second victory of the season, and the team’s 15th podium of the year
- Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula continued their steady weekend with a solid drive through the remaining stages to confirm sixth place
Hyundai Motorsport is celebrating a fantastic victory on home soil at Central European Rally, the 12th and penultimate round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), where Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe have finished on the top step of the podium.
The Belgians have emerged triumphant after a tricky inaugural event, which is the first in WRC’s history to traverse three different countries (Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic). Across 18 complex tarmac stages, the #11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid crew has been consistent and avoided such errors that befell their competitors on the challenging routes.
Their victory – which marks the team’s 15th podium of the season, and eighth of the year for Neuville/Wydaeghe – is testament to the hard work of the team both on-site and at the company’s headquarters in Alzenau. It is also a significant win due to the strong presence of Hyundai Motor Company in the area, including Hyundai Motor Europe and Hyundai Motor Deutschland, both based in Frankfurt, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech, which was the first Hyundai manufacturing plant to be built in Europe.
It was a solid yet cautious final day of Central European Rally, with the core focus for Neuville/Wydaeghe and team-mates Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula to pass safely through the four remaining stages. Four stages were contested, covering a distance of just 67.24km: Böhmerwald (SS15/17, 17.25km) and Passauer Land (SS16/18, 16.37km) both run twice.
The Belgians’ gap extended to 43.9 seconds ahead of the Power Stage, where they successfully brought home four additional points as they confirmed their second victory of the year. Neuville is now only seven points adrift of second place in the drivers’ standings heading into Rally Japan (November 16-19).
Suninen/Markkula closed a successful first outing on tarmac with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. It was a steep learning curve for the Finnish duo, who managed to improve their pace across three trouble-free days to bring the car home in sixth position.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
- Belgians’ victory marks second win and eighth podium of the 2023 season
- Gap to second in the drivers’ standings is now seven points after successful weekend
“I am really happy; it was a relief to make it to the finish! It was a very challenging, tough weekend out there. Overall, we have done a very good job; we had good consistency and speed, which really paid off, and I was able to start enjoying the rally more towards the end – especially when the grip conditions got a bit more stable. Thank you to everyone – it was a real team effort this weekend, and we did it. We have been pushing hard since Sardinia for another win, and it didn’t happen despite many podiums. To win here in front of lots of Belgian fans and family is obviously great – a lot of joy in this moment. We can be proud of what we achieved and now we look forward to the last event of the year and focus on another victory.”
Crew Notes: Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (#3 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
- Finns finish sixth in fourth event with Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
- Crew demonstrated continuous improvements on challenging tarmac roads
“Generally the rally was good. I haven’t done one like this for two years, so I was thrown in the deep end! Every loop was different in terms of weather and conditions, so there was a lot of learning. I had good pace in places – like going second fastest on SS11 – but my experience wasn’t enough to adapt to the conditions of the car from the very first kilometre. I’d like to say a big thanks to the team, it was a great season. It was nice to jump in the car mid-season and take on this challenge; I think this is a good position to continue building on from here. I’m satisfied with the job I’ve done, I was pretty much where I expected to be on paper at what is the hardest rally for me on the calendar.”
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said:
“This is a great feeling. Firstly, congratulations to Kalle Rovanperä on securing his second FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title today. It has been an impressive season from him and Toyota Gazoo Racing; they are clearly the benchmark and one that serves as inspiration for what we want to do. As for us, this was a very good rally. It was a new event, and everyone put a lot of effort into the preparation. So many people from our factory have joined us for our home rally this weekend, as well as our colleagues from Hyundai Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor Deutschland, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech. It was fantastic to have them here and to share this moment with them; it is a moment that can build the winning culture we need for what is to come next. For now, congratulations to Thierry and Martijn on their win. They made no mistakes in a very challenging weekend. Teemu was able to accumulate more experience in very different conditions, and it was a good opportunity for us to see his progression as we determine our next steps.”
- The 2023 FIA World Rally Championship will conclude with the 13th round of the season, Rally Japan, on November 16-19