Paddon finished 2nd in Australia, a costly retirement for Neuville
11 podiums and 68 stage wins in 2018 for Hyundai
Hyundai Motorsport has brought the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship to a conclusion with a podium finish on a dramatic final day of the season at Rally Australia.
Hayden Paddon secured second place to take his best result of the season, improving on third place at Rally Turkey back in September. Andreas Mikkelsen brought his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC home in 11th overall, having mounted a solid comeback following his Friday retirement.
For championship contender Thierry Neuville, it was a heartbreaking final morning as he retired at the start of Sunday’s second loop. Neuville had started the day with a slim chance of claiming of the drivers’ title. Unfortunately, having closed the gap on the opening loop, his hopes ended when he clipped a tree in SS22 (Coramba II), causing terminal damage to his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
Sunday’s Rally Australia itinerary included six stages over a total distance of 84km. A repeat loop of the 15.55km Coramba, 19.27km Sapphire and 7.16km Wedding Bells stages completed an impressively competitive and unpredictable 2018 season.
All four manufacturer teams have shown the WRC in its best light throughout the year with Hyundai Motorsport scoring three victories, 11 podiums and 68 stage wins. Building to an epic three-way fight in Rally Australia, the championship has been a fascinating rollercoaster of emotions and Hyundai Motorsport is proud to have played its part in a truly incredible season. The team ultimately finished as runners-up in the manufacturers’ battle with Neuville second in the drivers’ classification.
Everyone in the team extends its congratulations to Sébastien Ogier on securing the drivers’ championship and to Toyota Gazoo Racing on winning the manufacturers’ title. There is just two months to regroup and mount a new challenge for when the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Paddon said: “A great weekend for us! I’m really pleased to be back on the podium and to take our best result of the season. This feels like a proper podium. I felt the last few we’ve benefitted from others’ misfortune but we’ve definitely earned this one. Each year we’ve been getting one place better in Australia, so I must be on to win it next year! We’ve made good strategy calls all weekend and I’ve felt comfortable in the car. Thanks to the team and to the travelling Kiwi fans who have come out in their droves to support us. It makes all the difference. We have to see what happens next season but I hope this result helps our cause.”
Mikkelsen said: “In many ways I am pleased that the 2018 season has come to a close. It has been a troublesome year for me. This weekend is a perfect example; we’ve been quick and competitive at times but our event has been overshadowed by pure bad luck. Throughout the year we have made improvements and felt increasingly comfortable with the car, we just haven’t been able to translate that into results. Still, it has been a great season for the fans and it has been a pleasure to be part of it. We have had great support from the team and we’re all pushing in the right direction. We now look forward to a bit of time off, and then some proper testing ahead of Monte when we’ll go again in good spirits.”
Neuville said: “We gave it everything and had to take some risks today to try and capture the title. Even it was only a small chance, we had nothing to lose. In SS22, the conditions were really bad, and we simply went wide and clipped a tree. That was it, championship over. It has been a difficult and tricky weekend, and not the way we wanted the season to end but it’s part of the game. I would like to say thanks to the team and everyone at Hyundai Motorsport in Alzenau for giving us the car to fight for the title this year. Congratulations to Sébastien and Julien; it has been great to fight with them this year. We knew there would be one winning crew and that two would go home empty handed. It’s unfortunate we are the unlucky ones on this occasion. It’s been a great season for WRC and we’ve attracted some new fans, so now we have a short break and we can look ahead to another season.”
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented:
“First of all, well done to Hayden and Seb for a great podium result and for demonstrating such competitive pace all weekend. They have hardly put a foot wrong all weekend and this result is thoroughly deserved. In terms of the championship, of course we are disappointed but we gave it everything we had. It was always going to be tough for Thierry to capture the title today; he had no other option than to push. That’s rallying and we accept all the emotions that come with it. This has been one of the most closely fought championships for years. The fact it went right down to the final morning shows just how competitive this season has been. We have utmost respect for our rivals and our congratulations go to Sébastien for the drivers’ title and to Toyota for the manufacturers’. We will now look back on the highs and lows of our season as we prepare to come back fighting in 2019. On a final note, I would like to congratulate Gabriele Tarquini on securing the FIA World Touring Car Cup drivers’ title in an i30 N TCR.”