2022.03.10 Hyundai Motorsport Team

〈2022 WRC Round 2: Sweden〉 Thierry Neuville Stands Second on the Podium

Hyundai Motorsport Team
Thierry Neuville of Hyundai Motorsport GmbH succeeds in standing on the podium in the 2022 WRC round 2 Rally Sweden; Here he stood four times personally, and seven consecutive times for the Hyundai team.

Only a few years ago, Sweden was the WRC’s only full-snow rally - but not anymore. As there was a shortage of snow due to extreme weather around the world, it became difficult to create courses. Moreover, due to the impact of last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, the race was canceled and the Arctic Rally Finland replaced the Rally Sweden.

Rally Sweden consists of courses covered in snow and ice in frigid weather. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

A lot has changed for Rally Sweden in 2022; First, they set up a new nest in Umea, leaving Southwest Torsby, where they had previously raced. Umea, which is about 700km northeast of Torsby, is the leading educational city in northern Sweden. As it gets closer to the North Pole, there is no need to worry about the lack of snow. The entire course consists of 17 stages of 264.81km, and the total section is 1223.22km-long.

Drivers use studded tires for accurate and safe driving when driving on snow

As the full-snow rally is held on a road covered with snow and ice, special tires are a must. Studded tires with 384 20mm-long tungsten tips around them provide incredible grip through snow and ice. Drivers, on the other hand, have to adapt to the feeling of the car floating on the road and a completely different braking feel.

Snow load is a very important factor; when the snow melts or there is not enough snow, it would damage the studs. Unlike other rallies, all participants carry a shovel in case their car gets stuck in the snow. Thanks to the weather forecast that it will drop to minus 20 degrees Celsius over the weekend, everyone doesn’t have to worry about the snow melting; but things would never be easy for the pit crew who have to keep their hands moving.

The Hyundai team set up a new testing site in Finland and refined the performance of their rally car

The Hyundai team, who struggled in the opening race, tried to revive their reputation in Sweden. They inspected the rally cars at a new test base in Finland to increase their competitiveness. From this season, the rules have changed, allowing additional test bases other than the headquarters. The Hyundai team set up a test base near Ouninpohja, the famous jumping stage in Rally Finland.

Their rival Toyota team is headquartered in Finland, and the Ford team from England tested it in the private forest of Greystoke, about 45 kilometers from their home base. So the Hyundai team became the only team to test in a country other than Germany where their headquarters is located. Finland is a much better place to test rally cars than Germany; This is because teams can experience winter conditions, in addition to the high-speed gravel stage, which is also in Estonia. 

The Hyundai Team’s driver list includes Thierry Neuville, Ott Tanak, and Oliver Solberg.

As in the opening race, the Hyundai team added Thierry Neuville, Ott Tanak and Oliver Solberg to the list. Neuville won here in 2018; And Tanak won in 2019 while he was on the Toyota team and also recorded his first podium finish after joining the Hyundai team. For the youngest member of the team, Solberg, this is his first rally in his home country after becoming a works driver.

Unlike the Hyundai team, Toyota and Ford had changes. For the Toyota team, Esapeka Lappi replaced Sebastien Ogier, who competed in the opening race. The remaining drivers are Elfyn Evans, Kalle Rovanpera and Takamoto Katsuta. On the Ford team, Sebastien Loeb was out, with Craig Breen, Adrien Fourmaux, and Gus Greensmith playing. Ogier and Loeb, who have the most and second-most WRC titles respectively, signed off their full-time career.

Day or night, it’s hard to drive on pure white snow

The drivers, who drove the test stage three times on Thursday morning and adjusted their rally car settings, kicked off the race north of the city on Friday, after the 8 p.m. opening ceremony. As the race involved part of the course of the Swedish Local Rally Championship, it was familiar to local drivers, but not to most of the rest. Still, unlike the opening race where no service could be made, the service time was given during lunchtime.

One of the charms of Rally Sweden is that the speed of the rally cars on the pure white snow is faster than that of other rallies

On this day the drivers went through a total of 125.67 km-long SS1 through SS7; They drove the 3 stages of Kroksjo(14.98km), Kamsjon (27.81km), and Savar(17.28km) repeatedly in the morning and afternoon, returning to Umea in the evening to finish the day. The 5.53 km-long SS7 sprint stage was set up near the city center of Umea at The Red Barn Arena, which can house 30,000 visitors. Prince Carl Philip, the Swedish royal rally fan, attended the Rally Sweden.

Ott Tanak performed well at the beginning of Rally Sweden until several disappointing situations occurred. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

During the opening stage, Tanak got off to a fresh start with first place. The Hyundai team, where Solberg and Neuville placed 3rd and 4th place one after another, seemed to be in better condition than in the opening race. The Toyota team finished second with Rovanpera 0.4 seconds behind the lead, while Lappi and Evans took fifth and sixth places. As Rovanpera conquered SS3, he finished the morning stages with an overall lead, followed by Solberg.

The rising star Oliver Solberg has been doing quite well in his home country rally. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

In SS4, repeating the Kroksjo stage again, Evans took over the lead by marking the top while Rovanpera performed poorly. Hyundai narrowed the distance to the lead with Tanak winning SS5 and Neuville winning SS6. After closing the gap with Evans by 0.6 seconds in SS6, Neuville finished in first place on Friday, again marking the top in SS7. Behind Neuville, Toyota’s trio Rovanpera, Evans, and Lappi followed closely. Solberg, who had once gone the wrong way, finished fifth with a 28.1-second gap with Neuville. Tanak had no choice but to retire after SS5 due to safety precautions when a warning light came on in the hybrid system of the rally car.

Another charm of Rally Sweden is the pristine nature of the northern hemisphere

Originally on Saturday, it was a hectic schedule of going through 8 stages - starting at Brattby (10.49km) northwest of Umea, then Ortrask (20.49km), at the southern end of Langed (19.49km), and finally on Friday, An extension of the Umea sprint (11.17 km). Among them, Ortrask was highly anticipated as a challenging but beautiful stage that could show the various charms of Rally Sweden at once, but to protect the movement of the reindeer herd, the race has been canceled a week before the race.

Thierry Neuville reached for the podium, maintaining his lead throughout Rally Sweden. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

Taking the overall lead in 3rd place in SS8 starting Saturday, Rovanpera held on to his lead with SS10, SS14, and SS15. Neuville was slowed down in SS11 due to a hybrid system malfunction and was pushed down to 4th overall, but then again in the afternoon, he overtook Lappi to finish the day in 3rd place.

Evans secured second place with an 8.3-second gap from the lead. He was faster than Rovanpera in SS15 to finish Saturday, but got a 10-second penalty for crossing the course. Lappi of Toyota followed behind Neuville, who finished 3rd overall with a gap of 13.4 seconds with Evans. The race was fierce until the very end, requiring thorough concentration; Katsuta, Greensmith, and Solberg placed 5th, 6th, and 7th respectively. Solberg, who showed a good performance on the first day, was gradually pushed back and was penalized for being 16 minutes late at the start of SS15 and was pushed to 7th place. Ford’s Fourmaux wasted more than 4 minutes with engine trouble and finished 15th.

Elfyn Evans met with an accident on the last day. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)
Following the above accident, Elfyn Evans had another accident, drifting away from the podium. Thierry Neuville, on the other hand, had a stable race and eventually managed to secure second place. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

Finally, on Sunday, the winner was to be decided after 4 stages of SS16~SS19 (56.84km-long). Participants drove repeatedly through the stages of Vindeln (approximately 14 km-long) and Sarsjoliden, northwest of Umea. On this day, Rovanpera was still fast. However, there was a big change in the 2nd and 3rd places. Evans had two accidents while leaving the course. In particular, the second accident was caused by a strong collision with a huge pile of snow on the side of the course while driving at high speed, causing the bonnet to rise and the front part of the rally car to be severely damaged. will be. In the meantime, Neuville, who continued stable driving, rose to second place overall.

Neuville, who was 3.2 seconds faster than Lappi in the SS17, struggled with lack of traction but dominated the SS18, putting him in second place overall. In the final Sarsjoliden, which is also a power stage, Tanak took 5 points for finishing first in the power stage, while Rovanpera, Neuville, Katsuta, and Breen finished second to fifth.

Thierry Neuville finished second in Rally Sweden. With such fine performances of Neuville and other players, Hyundai was able to score 34 points in this rally

In the end, Rovanpera became the final winner of Rally Sweden, and Hyundai Team’s Neuville finished second. The last spot on the podium was occupied by Robanfera’s teammate Lappi. Katsuta, Greensmith, and Solberg finished the race from 4th to 7th, followed by WRC2 players up to 10th. Tanak, the winner of the 2019 Rally Sweden, did not mark a good score this time around.

Neuville made it to the podium for the first time of the season, getting rid of what had happened in the opening race, and soared to second place (32 points) in the championship. Hyundai kicked off a race for the championship title as Tanak and Solberg managed to score their first points this season. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome, such as problems with the hybrid system that players had a hard time shaking off. Meanwhile, Kalle Rovanpera, who won the championship in Sweden, where his father Harri Rovanpera also won 21 years ago, took the lead (46 points) in the Drivers’ Championship. The 3rd round of WRC will be held on April 21-24 in Croatia, one of the beautiful Balkan countries, as a tarmac rally.

By Sujin Lee, automobile critic 

Excited about the 1991 establishment of the first domestic auto mania magazine 〈Car Vision〉, I sent a series of long letters there that led to an unexpected hire. After becoming an editor and the Editor-in-Chief for 〈Car Life〉 and 〈Car Vision〉, I have started a new career as an auto critic. My recent interests include cutting-edge techs like electric cars, connected cars, and autonomous driving, but the ‘otaku’ in me doesn’t want internal combustion engines to disappear either.

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