Neuville & Hyundai wins 2017 WRC Finale

Thierry Neuville won his fourth FIA World Rally Championship round of 2017, the Kennards Hire Rally Australia finale after overcoming torrential rain on the final day to steer his Hyundai i20 to a 22.5sec win. By doing so Neuville also secured the Championship runners-up spot for the third time in five years. However, the final knockings of the 2017 season was not without drama and Neuvilles nearest challenger Jari-Matti Latvala dramatically crashed his Toyota Yaris out of second place on the final live TV Power Stage, promoting the M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Ott Tänak into second and Haydon Paddons Hydunai i20 into third. Significantly, Tanaks podium finish means there has been an M-Sport EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta on the podium at every round of the 2017 championship!

Neuvilles Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen led the rally overnight on Friday in only his third outing with the team, winning five of the opening six stages but the chance of repeating his 2016 victory at this event disappeared when his i20 suffered a double puncture on Saturday mornings second loop and with only one spare tyre available, the Norwegian was forced to retire, promoting Neuville to the lead of the rally.

The Belgian then fended off Latvala for the remainder of the rally labelling his own victory as a "Clever" drive in damp conditions. The penultimate stage of the day was cancelled because of the bad weather leaving only the Power Stage after Sundays service break and, in a heartbreaking twist, Latvala clipped the inside of a long left-hander and hit a tree, instantly ending his rally and handing second place to Tanak on his M-Sport swansong. The Power Stage was won by newly crowned champion Sébastien Ogier to claim five bonus points, Tänak took four for second with Lappi claiming three for third in a Toyota Yaris. Mikkelsen and Meeke took two and one points respectively.

Citroen would rather forget Rally Australia with all three cars hitting major problems. Kris Meeke was running as high as second on Friday but broke his right-rear suspension when he hit a bridge on SS12, retiring and rejoining under Rally2 rules along with Mikkelsen and the sole WRC2 entry of Kalle Rovanpera. Craig Breen seemed set for fourth place before rolling his Citroen C3 on SS18 and the third Citroen of Lefebvre clipped a tree and retired just prior to Breens misdemeanour!

With Latvala, Meeke and Breen in trouble, Hayden Paddon secured the final podium position, only his second top three finish of 2017 and Sebastien Ogier, who had sealed his fifth WRC in Wales, finished the rally a distant fourth position. His departing M-Sport team-mate Tanak endured a rally riddled with gearbox issues, a one-minute time penalty for an early stage arrival and a general lack of a speedy rhythm in his Fiesta. Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans finished in fifth position with poor grip from his DMACK-shod Fiesta all weekend however, the Welshman avoided any major dramas to secure 10 points in what could be be his final rally with DMACK. Esapekka Lappi suffered a power steering issue on the first day from which he never recovered, ending the rally in sixth place with Meekes Citroen seventh and the last works car in the top ten.

Kennards Hire Rally Australia Final Top Ten Positions

Pos .... Driver .... Team .... Car .... Gap
1. Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport 2h35m44.8s
2. Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja M-Sport World Rally Team 22.5s
3. Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Motorsport 59.1s
4. Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport World Rally Team 2m27.7s
5. Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport World Rally Team 3m05.6s
6. Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 3m49.5s
7. Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 22m58.4s
8. Nathan Quinn, B.Searcy Mitsubishi 25m03.4s
9. Richie Dalton, J.Allen Skoda 25m39.6s
10. Dean Herridge, S.Hill Subaru 29m52.3s

Final drivers' standings

Pos ..... Driver ..... Points
1. Sebastien Ogier 232
2. Thierry Neuville 208
3. Ott Tanak 191
4. Jari-Matti Latvala 136
5. Elfyn Evans 128
6. Dani Sordo 95
7. Kris Meeke 77
8. Hayden Paddon 74

Manufacturers Championship Final Positions

Pos ..... Team/Manufacturer .... Points
1. M-Sport World Rally Team 428
2. Hyundai Motorsport 345
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 251
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 218

27th November, 2017

Evans wins Wales Rally & Ogier 2017 WRC

Elfyn Evans claimed a first dominant win for himself and DMACK tyres as Sebastien Ogier sealed the 2017 World Rally Championship with third place for M-Sport on Rally GB. Tipped as one of the events where DMACK's tyre would be advantageous, Evans used Wales Rally GB to dominate from the start of the forest stages on Friday morning and this time there would be no repeat of the late heartbreaks that denied DMACK with Ott Tanak in Poland last season and Evans in Argentina earlier this year.

Evans and co-driver Dan Barritt got their lead up to close to a minute by the rally's halfway point and then protected it to the finish, ultimately winning by a commanding 37.3 seconds. The intrigue was all in the championship fight, with Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak needing to outscore Ogier in Wales by eight and seven points respectively to maintain even a mathematical possibility of denying him in Australia next month.

Neuville recovered from a scrappy start to advance up the order and reach second during Saturday, while Ogier began to struggle for pace and slipped back to fourth behind Tanak. Then heavy fog on the first of Saturday's two night stages prompted a huge shake-up. Neuville and Tanak both struggled, falling from second to third and third to sixth respectively.

Ogier went off the road, picked up a puncture then had to tackle the day's final stage with only three working brakes due to damage - yet in a "miracle" drive still managed to end the evening in second place.

Neuville quickly regained second on Sunday morning and pulled away from Ogier, but knew that wouldn't be enough to prolong the title fight unless Ogier was further demoted. Though Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Tanak all closed in on Ogier, with the quartet covered by just 7.5s going onto the final stage, the champion held third place and picked up a couple of powerstage bonus points to put the matter beyond doubt. Even Neuville's powerstage victory couldn't stop Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia sealing a fifth consecutive championship a round early.

Mikkelsen grabbed fourth from Latvala on the penultimate stage, finishing just 0.5s ahead. Latvala had thrust himself and Toyota into podium contention by setting the pace in Saturday night's fog.
Tanak backed right off on the powerstage to help ensure Ogier had a clear run at bonus points but still finished sixth and helped M-Sport clinch its first manufacturers' championship as a private team and its first since winning with Ford in 2007.

Despite criticising Citroen's pre-event preparations, Kris Meeke was able to run third early on. A minor error on Saturday and then a partially-broken rear wing dropped him away from the podium fight.
Hyundai fielded four cars for GB in a bid to keep its title hopes alive, but only Neuville and Mikkelsen were on the pace. Apart from a burst of pace when the fog hit on Saturday night, Hayden Paddon had a low-key run to a distant eighth.

Dani Sordo lost huge ground in the fog and finished 10th on his last appearance of the season, behind Esapekka Lappi - who never got comfortable in the Toyota all weekend. Juho Hanninen, in his final competitive outing for Toyota as it is only taking two cars to Australia and dropping him for 2018, was charging towards Paddon and Sordo when he had an embarrassing crash on Saturday's short Cholmondeley Castle spectator stage.

Hanninen was the only World Rally Car retiree who didn't rejoin under Rally2. Craig Breen went off on Friday but picked his way back up from 36th to 15th, while Mads Ostberg was still plagued by electrical problems even after rejoining for the final day.


Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport World Rally Team 2h57m00.6s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Motorsport 37.3s
3 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport World Rally Team 45.2s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Motorsport 49.8s
5 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 50.3s
6 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja M-Sport World Rally Team 1m02.3s
7 Kris Meeke, P.Nagle Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 1m20.5s
8 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Motorsport 2m16.3s
9 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC 2m46.5s
10 Dani Sordo, M.Marti Hyundai Motorsport 3m50.5s

29th October, 2017

Evans leads Wales Rally GB for M-Sport

Their much anticipated home event , Wales Rally GB, could not have got off to a better start for M Sport with Elfyn Evans & Daniel Barritt leading a clean sweep of the podium for the Ecoboost powered Ford Fiesta WRC.

Muddy, tricky conditions were very much the order of the first full day of action with inconsistent grip levels proving difficult to read. Once again however, the Fiesta proved a force to be reckoned with and all three crews contributed to the six fastest stage times for M Sport, thus reinforcing the impressive consistency of the Fiesta WRC.

With Evans leading the way, Ott Tänak in second, and Sébastien Ogier in third, it was the dream start to a potentially historic home event. But with 184 competitive kilometres left to contest, the fight is far from over with two exceptionally difficult days of rallying remaining!

28th October, 2017

Wales Rally GB 2017

Wales Rally GB brings the World Rally Championship to home soil this weekend with one of the most anticipated and celebrated events on the calendar. Steeped in motorsport history, the British round of the FIA World Rally Championship is an iconic event that has come to epitomise the sport of rallying. Founded in 1932, the introduction of forest roads in 1960 saw the emergence of what we know today. Formally venturing into England, Scotland and Wales, the event has been focused on Wales since 2000 but continues to draw inspiration from the past.

Harking back to the rallies of old, endurance is the name of the game and the crews will have to tackle a seventeen hour day on Saturday before the switch back to Greenwich Mean Time that same evening. But the long hours are compensated by some of the most picturesque landscapes and exciting gravel stages of the year.

With classics such as Myherin, Sweet Lamb, Hafren and Dyfi all on the agenda, the crews will navigate familiar territory through picture postcard forests. But there will not be time to stop and admire the scenery. Rain, fog and even ice are all to be expected and that presents a particular challenge. The fast, flowing stages might not be technically difficult, but muddy conditions add a treacherous twist with ever-changing grip waiting to trap the unwary.

24th October, 2017

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