- Hyundai Motorsport will be aiming for its maiden Rally Finland podium as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns from its summer break for round 8 of 13
- In addition to three WRC crews, Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program (HMDP) driver Jari Huttunen returns for his fourth round of 2018, his home rally, in a Hyundai i20 R5
- Hyundai Motorsport extended its lead in both drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships after a tantalising victory in Sardinia last month
23 July 2018 – Fresh from the mid-season break, Hyundai Motorsport heads to Rally Finland for round 8 of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with an extended lead in both championships following back-to-back wins in Portugal and Sardinia.
After an exciting victory in Sardinia – equalling the third closest finish in WRC history – the team has increased its advantage over M-Sport in the manufacturers’ championship to 28 points, with Thierry Neuville enjoying a 27-point gap at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Rally Finland is renowned for being the fastest event on the calendar, boasting the accolade of hosting 11 of the 12 fastest WRC rallies in history. The 23-stage rally flows past the scenic forests and lakes of central Finland as crews tackle high speeds and numerous jumps in the final of four consecutive gravel events.
For 2018, much of the route has been revamped with more than half of the stages differing from last year’s event, and two stages being run in reverse. The event is one of the toughest for co-drivers, who need to ensure their pace notes are concise, precise, and delivered to perfection.
Hyundai Motorsport will be targeting its maiden podium in Jyväskylä with its crews of Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall competing in the #4, #5 and #6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars respectively.
The team carried out a development test on the roads of Estonia in late June, while Paddon also took part in Rally Estonia last weekend. Although focus was on development, the event will undoubtedly have served as a useful warm-up for the next WRC round. Hyundai Motorsport will conduct a rally-specific test in Finland this coming weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are looking forward to getting back into WRC action after the long summer break. We have had time to reflect on a positive first half of the year but know that there is a lot of hard work to come, starting in Finland. It has not been a rally to favour our team in previous years, but we will be doing all we can to turn that around. We don’t take our championship position for granted because our rivals will once again be pushing hard and fortunes can change quickly. We would obviously like to score our first Finland podium but more important is getting all three of our cars into strong points-scoring positions. ”
HMDP Home Heroes
Rally Finland will also mark the return of Hyundai Motorsport’s Driver development Program (HMDP) crew Jari Huttunen and Antti Linnaketo. The Finnish duo will be taking part in their fourth WRC2 event of 2018, following appearances in Rally Sweden, Rally Mexico and Rally de Portugal.
The duo also competed in Rally Estonia to prepare themselves for their home event, at which they have fond memories after winning the WRC2 class twelve months ago. It is a feat that they will aim to emulate next weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We are pleased to have Jari and Antti back in the Hyundai i20 R5 in their home rally. They were on good form in this event last year and we all hope they will feature strongly once again. We have been impressed with their work ethic this season. Their first three rallies of the season were all a useful part of their learning curve so we are expecting them to put these experiences to use on stages they will be very familiar with. They’ve demonstrated pace and strength here before, so we know they have all the ingredients to be fighting at the front.”
WRC Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Norwegian crew looking for their second podium of season
- Mikkelsen currently holds sixth place in the drivers’ championship
Mikkelsen said: “Rally Finland is a really nice rally – it’s probably the event the drivers fear most, but also the one they really want to win! Because the grip is so low, you have to be very confident in the car to go fast on the stages. We were disappointed we couldn’t show our true potential in Sardinia, so hopefully we can find a good pace quickly and push hard to bring home a strong result.”
WRC Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Back-to-back wins in Portugal and Sardinia extended championship lead
- Additional challenge in Finland of being first on the road
Neuville said: “Sardinia was an incredible weekend, we couldn’t have hoped for a better result heading into the summer break! Now I’m ready to carry the momentum forward into the second half of the season. Finland is one of those rallies that everyone looks forward to. It’s going to be tricky this year coming into it after the extended break and jumping straight in the car. For the second event in a row, we’ll be first on the road and won’t have the advantage of the sweeping effect to begin with. It will be tough as the speed is very high – but I can’t wait for the challenge.”
WRC Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
- Crew have shown flashes of promise in recent rallies
- Chasing first WRC podium of 2018
Paddon said: “For me, Finland is the most incredible rally of the year. Not only are the roads, the jumps, and the pure speed impressive but also the atmosphere is electric. It really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We hope we can put the pieces together this year to bring home a strong result.”
HMDP Crew Notes: Huttunen/Linnaketo (#38 Hyundai i20 R5)
- Fourth WRC2 event for HMDP crew in 2018
- Finns targeting repeat result of 2017 at home event
Huttunen commented: “I’m looking forward to putting on a spectacular event for our home fans! I feel really comfortable with these conditions and we know that we can be strong on gravel. We’ve learned a great deal working with the Hyundai Motorsport team, and we are aiming to demonstrate our learnings with a good performance in Finland. It won’t be easy with such a competitive WRC2 field, but we’re ready to show our ability to put together a strong rally from beginning to end.”
- 23 special stages over a tough four-day programme
- Competitive distance over 317.26km, with action beginning on Thursday evening with a short visit to the 2.31km Harju stage
- Friday sees the crews tackle a repeated loop of four stages (Moksi, Urria, Ässämäki, Äänekoski), as well as a single visit to Oittila and a return to Harju
- A gruelling 143km of action is spread over 16 hours and four stages (Päijälä, Pihlajakoski, Kakaristo, Tuohikotanen) on Saturday
The final day concludes with two runs of Laukaa and Ruuhimäki, which features a sequence of jumps in the closing moments of the stage. It promises to be unmissable viewing.