Victory in Central European Rally | Hyundai N
We are celebrating another victory on home soil at Central European Rally, where Thierry and Martijn have finished first after 18 challenging stages. This result marks the crew’s second win and our 15th podium finish of the season.
It was a tricky inaugural event, which was the first in WRC’s history to traverse three different countries – Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.
Across the 18 complex stages, our Belgian i20 N Rally1 Hybrid crew was consistent, avoiding issues that befell their competitors. After losing their overnight lead on Thursday, they fought back to reclaim it on a dramatic Saturday morning, and they never relinquished it again. Thierry also claimed four stage wins across the rally.
“I am really happy; it was a relief to make it to the finish!”, said a jubilant Thierry. “It was a very challenging, tough weekend. We can be proud of what we achieved.”
Wet, wet, wet
It was a damp start to the event, which saw heavy rain on Friday fall as crews tackled stages in the Czech Republic. The rally then moved to Austria and Germany on Saturday, bringing fairer conditions, before a dry and sunny Sunday to round-out the event.
Teemu and Mikko impressed in their first tarmac event in the i20 N Rally1 Hybrid. The Finns were one of the last in the running order on Friday, which saw them experience some of the most muddy and wet conditions of the WRC competitors.
On Saturday and Sunday, they demonstrated improved pace and learning with a solid performance, and helped to confirm a 1-2 finish on SS11 Knaus Tabbert Bayerisher Wald. They finished the event in sixth position.
“I’m satisfied with the job I’ve done,” summarised Teemu. “I was pretty much where I expected to be on paper at what is the hardest rally for me on the calendar.”
Heartbreak for Esapekka
Unfortunately for our second Finnish crew, Central European Rally was one to forget. Esapekka and Janne were flying on Friday morning and were third overall before a crash on SS5 Šumavske Hoštice forced them to retire from the event.
“This is one of the biggest disappointments of the season for me,” admitted Esapekka. “Today I felt very confident – this was the best day on tarmac with this car ever. We were too close to the edge of the road and the right rear was on some mud, and under braking we lost the rear immediately. With the trees, there was nowhere to run wide, and it was game over.”
A moment to build a winning culture
Our Team Principal, Cyril, was delighted with the result. “This is a great feeling,” he said. “It was a new event, and everyone put a lot of effort into the preparation. So many people from our factory have joined us for our home rally this weekend, as well as our colleagues from Hyundai Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor Deutschland, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech. It was fantastic to have them here and to share this moment with them; it is a moment that can build the winning culture we need for what is to come next.”
He continued: “Congratulations to Kalle Rovanperä on securing his second FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title today. It has been an impressive season from him and Toyota Gazoo Racing; they are clearly the benchmark and one that serves as inspiration for what we want to do.”