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WRC - Seventh WRC victory and first of the 2018 season for Neuville

Eighth WRC win and ninth double podium in team’s history

18 February 2018 - 16h38, by Olivier Ferret 

Hyundai Motorsport has claimed its first-ever victory on the snowy stages of Rally Sweden as Thierry Neuville led a team 1-3-5 result in the second round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship.

The Belgian, along with co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, has been on imperious form all weekend, taking five of the team’s eight stage wins and adopting an intelligent approach to the event. Edging into the lead after Friday’s Svullrya stage (SS3), the #5 crew never relinquished their advantage over their rivals.

Ultimately, it was Citroën’s Craig Breen who finished in the runner-up spot ahead of the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew of Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger.

Third place for Mikkelsen ensured a double podium success for the team in Sweden, as well as the Norwegian’s first top-three finish as a Hyundai Motorsport driver in his fifth WRC event with the team.

Suspenseful Sunday

Sunday’s final stages were full of tension and drama. Two attempts at the 21.19km Likenäs stage acted as a suspenseful forerunner to the rally’s Power Stage, a comparatively short 9.56km run at Torsby.

One of the closest battles on the final morning was between Paddon and Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Esapekka Lappi with just 2.9-seconds dividing the two crews heading into the final stage. Unfortunately, a small off and an engine stall prevented Paddon from retaining his place, as the resultant time loss dropped him to fifth overall.

Mikkelsen secured third in the Power Stage to score three additional driver points, while Neuville added two extra points to his victory tally. The Belgian now sits atop the drivers’ championship with Hyundai Motorsport leading the way in the manufacturers’ standings.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Neuville said: “An incredible result! We had a disappointing start to the season in Monte-Carlo, but we didn’t let that get us down. We kept focused and targeted a strong result here in Sweden. We knew the competition would be tough for the win but we came here with the objective to bounce back, and we did that perfectly. We didn’t expect to take the lead so early in the weekend, so we have had to be clever to defend the gap at times, and then increase it when we could. I felt we deserved the win last year, but perhaps even more so this weekend. I was never going to push in the Power Stage because the victory meant too much to risk, so to come away with two extra points is great. We’re now leading the championship, so our 2018 campaign is back on track. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have many people working tirelessly every day behind the scenes to give us a competitive car, one with which we can fight for victories like this. This win is for all of them; it’s been a fantastic weekend for us.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Mikkelsen said: “It is a fantastic feeling to be standing on the podium for the first time with Hyundai Motorsport. We have had a pretty solid weekend and enjoyed a clean final morning. I wanted to give a push in the Power Stage but it’s always a fine line as we definitely didn’t want to risk our podium. In the end, we took three points and third place overall, which is very encouraging. More than that, it has been an excellent weekend for the team as a whole, and our congratulations go to Thierry and Nicolas on a tremendous result. It’s wonderful to be able to share in this success, and to see the team at the top of the championship, even at this early stage in the season.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Paddon said: “An annoying end to what had been a generally positive weekend for us. It was just a small mistake in the Power Stage, which stalled the car and lost us too much time to defend our fourth place. It is what it is. We’re not in the championship hunt this season so whether it’s fourth or fifth doesn’t really matter greatly. We have plenty of positives to take away from the event and I am looking forward to continuing this trend in my next WRC event in Portugal. I’m happy to have been part of this competitive rally for the team and I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan

“This has been a fantastic rally for our team and it’s a great feeling to score our maiden win of the 2018 season. After the disappointment of Monte, we really needed to fight back and to score a good haul of manufacturer points. Thierry and Nicolas have been on top form all weekend, and they thoroughly deserve this result. As a team, we have performed strongly, which is reflected in the 1-3-5 results. Congratulations to Andreas and Anders on their debut podium with our team, the first of many we hope! Hayden and Seb also had a strong weekend to finish in a fighting fifth, despite their late drama in the Power Stage. I have said many times that the competition in WRC is the toughest and closest it has been for years, so we can’t take this result for granted. Mexico will offer a completely different set of challenges, so the battle lines will be redrawn. For now, though, we’ll celebrate this victory, double podium and positive all-round team result.”

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