2024.02.14 Hyundai Motorsport Team

[2024 WRC Rally Round 1 Highlights] Thierry Neuville Revs Up a Stellar Comeback, Dominating with a Record‒Breaking Haul in Monte Carlo

Hyundai Motorsport Team
At the thrilling opener of the 2024 World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo, Thierry Neuville from Hyundai blazed through the competition, not just taking the checkered flag but also bagging a hefty 30 points, the maximum haul in a single round. It was a spectacular flashback to his triumphant Monte Carlo rally four years prior, where he stood atop the podium with a perfect score.

Hyundai Motorsport GmbH fired up the engines of ambition with Neuville’s victory, signaling a fierce charge towards the twin crowns of drivers and manufacturers’ championships. Neuville, steering his Hyundai with precision and skill, edged out rivals in a nail‒biting showdown, notably against the nine‒time Monte Carlo maestro, Sébastien Ogier. This victory wasn’t just a win; it was a statement, marking Neuville’s dominance right from the season’s start.

Hyundai’s 2024 season

Celebrating its 10th year back in the WRC, Hyundai has pulled out all the stops to reclaim the champion’s title. They’ve bolstered their driver lineup and brought on board the legendary engineer François‒Xavier Demaison to rev up their rally car’s performance. Known for his work in fixing drive shaft issues and lightening the load at last year’s Safari, Demaison’s expertise is a game‒changer.

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul will adopt a dual role this year, as the Frenchman adds the role of company President

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul will adopt a dual role in 2024 as the Frenchman adds the role of company President; The former Renault F1 team boss is quickly making his mark in the rally world. Despite being new to the scene, Abiteboul has tightened the team’s structure, setting the stage for Hyundai’s ambitious future in motorsports.

The rally field sees a slimmed‒down lineup with only eight cars in the Rally1 class, a dip from last year’s ten. Hyundai keeps its trio intact, while Toyota takes Kalle Rovanperä out and M‒Sport Ford trim their entries. For Hyundai, the former champion Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville lead, with Andreas Mikkelsen sharing the third Hyundai seat with Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi.

Entering his 11th season with Hyundai, Neuville is back in the ring, gunning for the individual title. Among this year’s contenders, he and Ogier are the only ones to have clinched victory in the season‒opening Monte Carlo rally. Neuville, having bested Ogier in a fierce battle in 2020, has graced the podium five times.

After a year away, Tanak returns to Hyundai, faced with the urgent task of getting to grips with the updated car, having had limited opportunities for test drives due to enhancements made since he last drove two years ago. Despite facing various reliability issues with the Ford team last season, Tanak managed to secure two wins, proving his undiminished driving prowess. While Tanak’s best Monte Carlo Rally results have been two third‒place finishes, his three‒year stint with Hyundai was marred by retirements.

2024 Hyundai WRC Rally 1 drivers: Thierry Neuville, Ott Tanak, Andreas Mikkelsen (from left)

Mikkelsen also faced the challenge of adapting to a new car. After moving to Hyundai in 2017, he had to leave the team in 2019 and step down to WRC2. Returning to the top‒tier class after quite some time, Mikkelsen has to get used to a hybrid rally car. He has an experience of two podium finishes at Monte Carlo.

The Toyota team fielded Elfyn Evans, Takamoto Katsuta, and Sebastien Ogier. Defending champion Kalle Rovanperä, needing a break, will participate in only select races this season, not the full calendar. Although Toyota’s driver lineup might seem less formidable than last year’s, Ogier’s presence remains significant. With nine driver’s championships and nine wins at Monte Carlo, he is rightly dubbed the ‘Master of Monte Carlo.’ Ogier, aiming for his 10th victory, openly expressed his determination to win again in his hometown of Gap.

Evans, coming off a strong season, steps up as Toyota’s ace driver. Image: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

After finishing second in last year’s championship, Evans has thrown his hat back in the ring for the title. With Rovanperä taking a step back, the responsibility on Evans as the team’s lead driver has significantly increased. Katsuta, benefiting from Toyota’s full support, faces the crucial task of contributing to the team’s points in Rovanperä’s absence. Until now, Katsuta has been gathering experience without much pressure, but now he must prove his capability as a key points‒earning driver for the team.

Ford restructured its driver lineup following Tanak’s departure, bringing in Adrien Fourmaux instead of Pierre‒Louis Loubet, and newcomer Grégoire Munster, among others. Fourmaux, who started driving World Rally Cars for Ford in 2021 and participated in the 2022 season with a Puma Rally1, albeit not for the full season, had modest results. He had to step down to WRC2 last year when the team opted for Tanak and Loubet.

Munster, moving from Hyundai WRC2 to Ford, enters Rally1 as one of the freshest faces this season. He has experience from competing in a Puma Rally1 that Serderidis used to drive, at the Central European Rally last year. Like Mikkelsen, Munster’s immediate priority is to adapt to the hybrid rally car.

One of the most noticeable changes this season is undoubtedly the point system. With the aim to maintain suspense even on Sundays, provisional points are now awarded based on Saturday’s rankings, with additional points allocated based on Sunday’s race outcomes. Leading up to Saturday secures 18 points, and being the fastest on Sunday can add up to 7 more points. This setup allows for the possibility of matching the traditional 25 points (excluding power points) awarded to the winner, but in some cases, second and third place finishers could end up scoring more points. Given the mixed opinions on this new point system, the FIA has included a clause allowing a return to the traditional system depending on circumstances.

Thierry Neuville, renowned for scoring the most points at the historic Monte Carlo Rally

The Monte Carlo Rally, a staple in the WRC calendar since its inception in 1973 (excluding 2009‒2011), remains one of the oldest events in the series. This year’s rally covered a total of 17 stages, spanning 324.44 km. Some stages were adjusted, and previously used courses were reinstated. The iconic Col de Turini mountain pass stage (SS17), known for its difficulty and emblematic value to the Monte Carlo Rally, continued to serve as the event’s grand finale.

The rally’s stages are categorized as mixed‒surface roads rather than pure tarmac due to the inclusion of Alpine terrains in January, where snow, ice, and rain mix with the paved roads. Although this year’s rally featured less snow, making it somewhat akin to a tarmac rally, the challenge level remained high. Tire selection is critical, as surface conditions can change dramatically with the weather and time of day. Consequently, the driver’s sharp judgment, the team’s analytical capabilities, and the efforts of safety crews, who provide real‒time updates on additional surface changes, play a crucial role in the competition’s outcome.

Tanak’s best record at the Monte Carlo Rally was third place. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

At 4:30 PM on Wednesday, January 24th, a shake‒down test commenced on a 3.28km test course located not far northwest of Gap. Tanak from Hyundai clocked the fastest time, followed by Evans, Neuville, Ogier, with Mikkelsen trailing in 6th place behind Katsuta. As expected, the Ford team duo lagged behind in the Rally1. A differential issue was detected during Fourmaux’s first run.

Night stages added excitement to the Monte Carlo Rally. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

At 8:35 PM on Thursday, January 25th, the real journey of the 2024 season kicked off with SS1 of 21.01km and SS2 of 25.19km. Long night stages have become a common sight at the Monte Carlo Rally in recent years. The trails of light from the rally cars racing through the pitch‒dark resembled shining swords or spectacular fireworks. The starting order was based on last year’s championship rankings. With defending champion Rovanperä absent, Evans led the way, followed by Tanak, Neuville, Ogier, Katsuta, Mikkelsen, Fourmaux, and Munster. All drivers opted for soft tires, with the Hyundai trio carrying only one spare tire to reduce weight, whereas Evans, Katsuta, and the Ford duo prepared for contingencies by carrying two spares each.

Evans was the fastest in the opening SS1, with Tanak and Neuville close behind. Earlier cars kicking up gravel while corner cutting made it increasingly difficult for those following. Evans also clinched SS2, finishing the day as the overall leader. Neuville was 15 seconds behind in second place, followed by Ogier 6.5 seconds later. Tanak, facing throttle pedal issues, was 1.2 seconds behind Ogier in fourth place. Tanak, Fourmaux, Katsuta, Munster, and Mikkelsen ranked 4th to 8th, with Mikkelsen over a minute behind due to engine problems.

Friday, January 26th, began with SS3 (Saint‒Léger‒les‒Mélèzes ‒ La Bâtie‒Neuve) of 16.68km, followed by three stages repeated in the morning and afternoon, totaling 105.72km. The opening stage, run early in the morning, required caution due to black ice in the middle of the course. Neuville achieved the top time in SS3, narrowing the gap with Evans to 9.8 seconds and extending the lead over third‒place Ogier to 22.9 seconds.

Ott Tanak slid off the course but quickly rejoined the race with the help of spectators. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

Tanak slid off the course at the 7.7km mark but quickly rejoined the race with the help of spectators, though he dropped to fifth place. Munster and Katsuta also slid at the same spot, with Munster resuming the race and Katsuta losing significant time. Ogier was fastest in SS4, with Neuville briefly losing rear grip and falling 18.8 seconds behind Evans. Neuville slipped to third overall after consecutive top times by Ogier in SS5, with Evans maintaining the lead. Fourmaux closely chased Tanak, just 3 seconds behind, after getting the setup right. The surface conditions had changed from the recce and mid‒information collected by the safety crews, causing difficulties for many drivers.

The cars, refreshed during the midday service, repeated the morning stages. The previously frozen surface thawed to a wet condition, further muddied by gravel and mud. Neuville ignited a comeback with consecutive top times, while Ogier was the fastest in the dark SS8. Evans remained the leader by the end of Friday, with Ogier trailing by 4.5 seconds. Neuville reduced the gap with leader Evans to 16.1 seconds, while Tanak was 57 seconds behind in fourth place. Mikkelsen, in sixth place, poured his effort into adapting to his hybrid rally car, and Katsuta climbed to 12th place from 19th. That night, an oil leak was discovered in Neuville’s gearbox, prompting a precautionary gearbox replacement.

Saturday, January 27th, covered 120.40km, starting with the 18.79km‒long Esparron ‒ Oze stage and repeating two other stages. Many participants found the course, not been used in a while, unfamiliar. Yet, rankings had to be improved as up to 18 provisional points were determined by Saturday’s results. The starting order was the reverse of the rankings up to yesterday, leading with Katsuta, followed by Munster, Mikkelsen, Fourmaux, Tanak, Neuville, Ogier, and Evans.

Neuville reclaimed second overall with the fastest time in the opening SS9, pushing Ogier down. Meanwhile, Tanak experienced issues with his car not starting when leaving the morning Park Fermé and stalling during the drive. Mikkelsen went off course, losing about 40 seconds and dropping to 7th place. In SS10, Ogier was quickest, but Neuville’s second‒fastest time propelled him past Evans into the overall lead. Evans struggled with hybrid system issues, slowing his pace. Neuville led Evans by 0.9 seconds and third‒place Ogier by 5.1 seconds. Tanak regained stability, securing his first stage win of the season in SS11. Conversely, Solberg retired due to two consecutive tire punctures.

SS12, a repeat run of SS9 in the afternoon, saw Munster crash into a wooden guardrail at a tight corner and come to a halt. Despite help from spectators, he couldn’t continue. Ogier moved past Evans to third place, narrowing the gap to Neuville to just 2.2 seconds. Ogier also clinched SS13, taking the overall lead by a mere 0.8 seconds. However, Neuville regained the throne in the closing stage SS14 of Saturday. He finished the day 3.3 seconds ahead of Ogier, securing the overall lead. A non‒retirement on Sunday meant Neuville could bag at least 18 points.

Ogier achieved a remarkable milestone with his 700th stage win. Evans had to watch the intense battle for the lead between Neuville and Ogier from behind. Tanak held a solid fourth place, followed by Fourmaux, Mikkelsen, and Katsuta. Mikkelsen also faced hybrid issues later in the day. In WRC2, Gryazin led with Lopez trailing by just 0.2 seconds, followed by Rossel and Ciamin.

Sunday, January 28th, started with the La Bréole ‒ Selonnet stage of 18.31km, followed by SS16 of 19.01km, concluding with the Col de Turini stage. The total distance for stages SS15 to SS17 was 52.12km. Under the new format, even drivers who had retired could score up to 12 points based on their performance that day, with the top 7 in Sunday’s records receiving 7 to 1 points, and 5 to 1 points available in the power stage.

The early morning SS15 at 7 AM, though not extensively icy, was challenging. Neuville widened the gap with Ogier to 8 seconds by setting the top time. Apart from Neuville and Ogier, the gap to 7th place Katsuta was substantial, with no changes in the rankings. In WRC2, Lopez took the lead over Gryazin, with a tight 6.7 seconds gap to third‒place Rossel. Neuville continued his dominance in SS16, dampening the spirit of his pursuers. With the opening win within reach, Neuville remained focused, saying, “It was nice. It’s hard to judge the speed because it was much more slippery than expected in the beginning and it was getting really dirty. So far it feels good but there’s one more stage to go and we need to keep concentrated.”

The road to the Alps, 1,600 meters above sea level, is full of tricky slopes and hairpins. Photo: WRC (https://www.wrc.com)

The final stage, SS17, also serving as the power stage, is the beacon of the Monte Carlo Rally. Though slightly shorter than last year, the steep ascent through the Alps to 1,600 meters is fraught with tight hairpins. Neuville secured all of Sunday’s stages, becoming the hero of the opening Monte Carlo round. This perfect start to the 2024 season marked his 20th victory, a prestigious accolade earned after a fierce battle with former champions.

Neuville lifted the Monte Carlo Rally trophy once again, matching his maximum score of 30 points from four years ago.

Neuville lifted the Monte Carlo Rally trophy once again, matching his maximum score of 30 points from four years ago, and took the lead in the drivers’ championship. Reflecting on his achievement, Neuville stated, “I don’t have the words, to be honest. It was just so great this weekend, I felt so comfortable in the car. The whole team was doing an amazing job and I think the whole package was working really well. There are always things to improve so of course we need to continue working, but we are very happy to win this rally.”

The remaining podium spots went to the Toyota duo Ogier and Evans, second and third, respectively. Despite adapting to a new car, Tanak managed a commendable fourth‒place finish. Fourmaux climbed to fifth for the Ford team, while Mikkelsen, facing his first Rally1 challenges, was satisfied with a sixth‒place finish. In WRC2, Yohan Rossel secured victory by a 4‒second margin, finishing eighth overall, with Lopez and Gryazin completing the podium.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary of returning to the World Rally Championship (WRC), Hyundai has started the 2024 season on a high note with a stellar performance in the opening round

As seen above, Hyundai, marking its 10th year in the WRC, kicked off the 2024 season with Thierry Neuville clinching the maximum 30 points at the Monte Carlo Rally, setting a positive pace for the season’s victories. It’s noteworthy that this is the first time a Hyundai driver has secured maximum points since Neuville’s achievement in the 2020 Rallye Monte Carlo; Back then, Hyundai was crowned the manufacturers’ champion for two consecutive seasons (2019 and 2020).

The second round will be held in Umeå, located in the northeast of Sweden, from February 15 to 18. This event stands out on the calendar as the only full snow rally, promising thrilling high‒speed action across snowy terrains. Hyundai will field Neuville, Tanak, and Lappi, while Toyota’s defending champion Rovanperä will make his first entry of the season.

by Lee Soo‒jin (Automotive Critic)

He started as an automotive journalist after passionately sending letters to the launch of the Korean car magazine in 1991. Served as editor‒in‒chief and editorial board member for and , currently active as an auto critic. While he diligently spotlight the latest trends in electric vehicles, connected cars, and autonomous driving technologies, deep down, he is a true ‘car geek’ who secretly hopes the scent of gasoline and the rumble of internal combustion engines never fade away.

HMG Journal Operation Team


Pursuant to the Creative Commons License (CCL) 2.0, all users can copy, distribute, and transmit Information available on the Hyundai Motor Group Newsroom, or use it for exhibitions and performances. Please note, however, that all information is protected by copyright. Information users must use the information available on the Hyundai Motor Group Newsroom for strictly private/personal purposes only.

HMG Operation Policy