- Hyundai Motorsport has become the first team to take repeat victories in 2017 as Thierry Neuville scored a dramatic win in Rally Argentina
- The Belgian won a thrilling Power Stage battle to triumph by just 0.7 seconds, one of the closest finishes in WRC history
- Team has strengthened its grip on second place in Manufacturers’ Championship, and moved two points closer to first
In one of the most electrifying WRC finales in history, Hyundai Motorsport has claimed a stunning victory in the Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with driver Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul taking the lead in the very last stage and winning by just 0.7 of a second.
The result marks the team’s second win in a row after the Tour de Corse, and its fifth WRC victory in total. Not only is it the first time that Hyundai Motorsport has secured back-to-back successes, the Belgian crew also become the first repeat winners of the 2017 season.
Neuville and Gilsoul achieved the dramatic win after fighting back from a tough start to the rally. Beginning the second day a full minute behind the lead, they cut this to just 11.5 seconds at the start of day three, and to just 0.6 seconds going into the final stage. They managed to edge into the front in the final stage of the rally, the El Condor Power Stage, winning by just 0.7 seconds ahead of rivals Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt.
Neuville commented: “I cannot believe it. I have never had such a nerve-wracking final few minutes of a rally in my career. It’s an amazing result and I have to say thanks first of all to the team for everything they’ve done. Congratulations also to Elfyn, who put up an incredible fight this weekend. I gave it absolutely everything I had in today’s final stages. After the difficult start to the rally, I would have been happy to take second but it’s a special feeling to win again. It has been an exciting but crazy rally from the start, so to come away with the victory is fantastic. We wanted to build up our momentum after Corsica and this was the perfect way to do just that. To have the Power Stage win is just the icing on the cake and gives us a very important boost in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship. We could not have asked for more.”
The result enters the history books as the third closest ever finish in WRC, after Rally Jordan in 2011 (0.2s) and Rally NZ in 2007 (0.3s).
Neuville and Gilsoul took a total of five stage wins. The result represents their fourth WRC win as a Hyundai Motorsport crew and the first time they have won twice in a single season.
Victory in the final El Condor stage also continued Neuville’s unbroken run of Power Stage points this year, which now totals 19, also picking up the maximum 30 points on offer in Argentina to advance to third in the increasingly close-fought Drivers’ standings.
The result strengthens the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s grip on second place in the Manufacturers’ ranking. Now on 140 points, Hyundai is now 41 points ahead of the Toyota team on 99 points, increasing the gap from 34 points at the end of the previous Tour de Corse. Hyundai also edged slightly closer to the leaders, the M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiestas on 162 points, and is now 22 points behind first place compared with 24 points at the end of the Tour de Corse.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “What an incredible finale for a thrilling rally. Our congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas for a victory that we’ll all remember for a long time, and to Elfyn and M-Sport for putting up such an incredible battle. To win by such a small margin after 360km is remarkable, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the closest finishes ever. Argentina is a tough place to come rallying and we knew it would be hard on these new cars in their first event here. We had our fair share of issues and misfortune across all three cars, but it’s sometimes a question of fighting through to the finish. Hayden and Dani’s Power Stage was full of drama, which really summed up their respective rallies. We have plenty of learning lessons from this event, which will use to improve our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the coming gravel events. For now, though, we can celebrate an important victory. We are very happy to become the first team to win two rallies this season – and we hope we can achieve more.”
It was a less positive result for the two other Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews. Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard took sixth place overall, after having won the same event impressively in 2016, while Dani Sordo and Marc Martí took eighth overall.
The WRC moves to Portugal for the sixth round of the 2017 season, from 18 to 21 May.