Strong finish softens Hyundai’s pain at Safari Rally Kenya

Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a strong final day at the past weekend’s Safari Rally Kenya, the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), where Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville finished first and second in the Super Sunday standings.All three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews demonstrated strong pace in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid across the six remaining tests, taking four 1-2-3 stage finishes – including the Power Stage. It was the first time in four visits to Safari Rally Kenya that the team locked out the top three positions in a stage, marking a step forward in Hyundai Motorsport’s competitiveness at the event.Safari Rally Kenya featured the longest Super Sunday of the season so far with a competitive distance of 74,38 km. Two runs of Malewa (SS14/17, 8,33 km), Oserengoni (SS15/18, 18,33 km) and Hell’s Gate (SS16/20, 10,53 km) concluded the event.Once again, it was not a trouble-free run for the crews. Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe claimed a stage win on SS14 Malewa 1, but went into midday service with a broken wishbone following a run-in with a large rock. After successful repairs to their car, the Belgians went on to secure their second stage win on the repeat of Malewa. A wild run to a third stage win of the day on the Power Stage was a final flourish in a spectacular recovery drive from the crew’s issues on Saturday. Neuville finished fifth overall, with his solid haul of points maintaining his position at the top of the drivers’ standings.In a bid to maximise points from Sunday, both Tänak/Martin Järveoja and Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm carried only one spare tyre in the morning loop. Tänak and Martin Järveoja were second fastest on every stage, and continued this trend in the final three stages. Victory on SS18 Oserengoni 2 and second in the Power Stage saw the Estonians top the Super Sunday standings and classify eighth overall, scoring them 12 points from the event. Tänak has also gained a place in the drivers’ standings and now sits in fourth.
Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were third fastest on SS14 – the first Hyundai Motorsport 1-2-3 of the day – despite nursing a puncture. A difficult weekend for the Finns worsened as they picked up a transmission problem on the following stages, yet the #4 crew was able to bounce back to help bring home three more Hyundai Motorsport stage lockouts.Just four points separate Hyundai Motorsport from first place in the manufacturers’ standings as the WRC returns to Europe next month for the fourth round of the season, the Croatia Rally.
Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn WydaegheNeuville said: “A good weekend, but for sure we could have done better. Unfortunately, we got hit by some problems, but despite this, we kept fighting. Today there was a chance to take loads of points – we scored 11 out of 12, so we’re satisfied to be the second-best performer today. We would have loved to get more, especially after three consecutive difficult years here in Kenya. Still room for improvement, but we have managed to increase the lead in the drivers’ championship.”
Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin JärveojaTänak said: “Our target was always not to push to the maximum, but to aim for the podium with a clean run, so our retirement on Friday was of course frustrating. Although we had to face a number of issues in the car and on the road, our troubles had nothing to do with reliability. Our pace is definitely getting closer to the others. Croatia will be a completely different rally even to Monte-Carlo, so let’s see how we do. We want to get back on track; the championship is very young, but we need to get back into our normal rhythm.”
Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne FermLappi said: “The speed this weekend was good from the beginning, even yesterday when we were opening the road, so we need to be pleased with that. All of our cars were quite competitive in terms of pace, but unfortunately reliability was not with us this weekend and that is reflected in the results. At least my team-mates were able to get a lot of points from today and it was great to get that 1-2-3 in the Power Stage. I am looking forward to my next event with the team.”
Hyundai Motorsport president and team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “Teamwork is probably the key word of the weekend at an event that always presents a number of challenges for crews, but unfortunately a bit more for ours. Some of them were a natural part of Safari Rally Kenya but others were self-inflicted by residual weaknesses of our cars. “Our pace has been very good and on par with our closest competitor at an event where we were so behind last year – it is good to see the progress we have achieved in less than a year. It is down to the fantastic work over winter at the factory, but recovering from all of the chaos we faced over the course of this weekend has been down to the great teamwork and long hours from everyone here pushing and keeping their heads up.“
I particularly loved that final 1-2-3 from our crews; it is a demonstration of the capabilities of our car, but also of the mindset that must prevail in this championship in any given situation.” Next rallyThe Croatia Rally, will run from 18 to 21 April, marks a return to tarmac for the fourth round of the 2024 season.
Final results of Safari Rally Kenya: 1K. Rovanperä/J. HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid3:36.04.02T. Katsuta/A. JohnstonToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid+1:37.83A. Fourmaux/A. CoriaFord Puma Rally1 Hybrid+2:25.14E. Evans/S. MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid+4:20.2 5T. Neuville/M. WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid+10:17.56G. Greensmith/J. AnderssonŠkoda Fabia RS+18:05.47O. Solberg/E. EdmondsonŠkoda Fabia RS+19:28.5 8O. Tänak/M. JärveojaHyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid+21:02. 09J. Serderidis/F. MiclotteFord Puma Rally1 Hybrid+26:13.310K. Kajetanowicz/M. SzczepaniakŠkoda Fabia RS+26:34.4 

Championship for Manufacturers’ standings: 1Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team131
2Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team1273M-Sport Ford World Rally Team72 Drivers’ Championship standings: 1T. Neuville672E. Evans613A. Fourmaux464O. Tänak335K. Rovanperä316T. Katsuta308E. Lappi239O. Solberg1210A. Mikkelsen6 
LogoDeon  Sonnekus
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