Neuville wins Monte Carlo Rally
Hyundai Motorsport has begun its manufacturers’ championship title defence in style by securing an impressive victory in Rallye Monte-Carlo
Thierry Neuville put in a premium performance on the final day to move into the lead by SS14, and then extend his advantage to claim the team’s 15th WRC win
Sébastien Loeb picked up sixth place to salvage ten important manufacturer points from a difficult weekend
Hyundai Motorsport has registered its first win of the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as Thierry Neuville stormed to victory with a dominant performance on the final day in Rallye Monte-Carlo.
The Belgian, alongside co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul, claimed a clean sweep on Sunday morning with four stage wins and the maximum five Power Stage points to take the team’s 15th WRC win and its first-ever in the Principality. The crew scored a total of nine stage wins from a possible 16 over the four-day event.
Sunday morning’s itinerary covered four stages; a repeat loop of familiar tests that saw crews tackle the iconic Col de Turini in La Bollène-Vésubie-Peïra Cava (SS13/SS15) before the shorter but no less challenging La Cabanette-Col de Braus (SS14/SS16).
Neuville put in an exemplary performance all weekend to get the maximum from his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in some typically challenging Monte conditions. Having cemented a 6.4-second gap to the leaders by the end of Saturday, he cut the deficit on Sunday’s opening stage before moving into the lead and then extending his own advantage to 12.6-seconds with a Power Stage win. The result marked the 13th WRC career win for the #11 crew.
A demanding event came to a frustrating end for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena as they had to settle for sixth overall. The crew opted for softer tyres to tackle the two loops, which proved to be disadvantageous in the conditions. Adding to their struggles, while battling to defend fourth place, they lost the rear of their car at a tight hairpin in SS14, requiring spectator support to get them back on the road. They lost crucial time and dropped down the order, as they struggled with their tyre choice. Nonetheless, they were able to salvage ten important championship points.
Hyundai Motorsport has taken an early lead in the manufacturers’ classification on 35 points, while Neuville starts the 2020 season atop the drivers’ table with the maximum 30 points on offer.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (#11 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Belgians kick-started their 2020 title charge with an impressive victory in Monte-Carlo
Nine stage wins over the weekend, including five Power Stage points
Neuville said: “This is an amazing way to start the season and a fantastic feeling. I am really pleased that we have finally taken victory in Monte-Carlo; it’s been something we’ve chased for a while. We’ve come close before but now we’ve done it. It has not been an easy weekend, but I have picked up confidence as the event progressed, working very closely with the team and my gravel crew, who have done a great job. We’ve really been able to increase our feeling and comfort in the car the past few days. I could really push, and we’ve seen the results from the stage times. We were also able to take maximum points in the Power Stage. Our 13th WRC win – such a lucky number! My thanks to the whole team, it’s the perfect way to start a new season.”
Crew Notes: Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (#9 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Tough weekend for the nine-time world champions
Crew claimed sixth place and picked up ten manufacturer points
Loeb said: “This has certainly not been the rally we were hoping for; it has been a difficult one all weekend and it seems the planets were not aligned for us. We were going OK until the second day but then yesterday we were backed up. Today was all about our tyre choice, which was not the right one for the conditions. We were already struggling at the end of the first stage, and I made a mistake at a tight hairpin in the second stage because I had no front grip. We just had to complete the rally, conserving our tyres to make it to the end. It’s not nice to tackle stages in that way but it was all we could do. We never give up. Huge congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the entire Hyundai Motorsport team for the victory. It takes something to win Rallye Monte-Carlo, so just enjoy these moments.”
Team Principal Andrea Adamo: “There are so many things going through my mind at the moment. It is so meaningful for me personally to win Rallye Monte-Carlo. Alongside San Remo, it was one of the events that first attracted me to this sport, so to see a Hyundai with Thierry and Nicolas on the top step of the podium is something special. The Hyundai Motorsport team has grown a lot in the past twelve months. I remember after finishing second last year, listing all the things on which we needed to work on and the areas in which we needed to improve. My people have done a great job filling in those gaps and have shown this weekend what they are capable of. We have to also consider looking at the performance of Séb and Danos today, affected no doubt by their tyre choice, that we are not perfect. We have to strive for perfection, but for now we will celebrate this victory.”