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When a well timed beer helped Hyundai to a maiden WRC podium

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It’s not usually that beer and sporting success go hand in hand. Nonetheless, wind again the clock to Rally Mexico 2014 and this in style beverage performed an unlikely, but very important cameo in saving Hyundai from the heartbreak of throwing away a primary World Rally Championship podium on the remaining hurdle.

The second is amongst motorsport’s strangest tales and has earned a rightful place in WRC folklore. This 12 months Hyundai celebrates its tenth season because it made the daring determination to return to the WRC, the place it has since change into a pressure in world rallying. It is a milestone Hyundai is eager to mark with particular branding adorning this 12 months’s i20 Ns. Whereas the marque heads to Mexico with 100 WRC podiums (25 wins) and two producers’ titles beneath its belt, its success may be traced again to a essential bottle of Corona lager that prevented heartbreak, and the short pondering Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

“I imply the WRC has had numerous tales however that one was undoubtedly a particular one,” Neuville, who has contested each spherical of Hyundai’s newest WRC spell so far, tells Autosport. “On the time it was a brand new producer coming in to the championship. For me, after I had season with Ford, I signed for a brand new producer and scored its first podium because of a bottle of beer, it was a pleasant headline. It was one of many nice moments to recollect within the historical past of WRC.”

Hyundai wasn’t a brand new identify in WRC parlance in 2014 however this was very a lot a brand new daybreak for the automotive maker in rallying’s prime flight. Its earlier foray into the WRC included success within the short-lived F2 class within the late Nineteen Nineties, the place it recorded a greatest results of championship runner-up to Renault with its Alister McRae and Kenneth Eriksson pushed Coupe Evo 2.

It then progressed to WRC’s prime tier in 2000 with the Accent WRC automotive however in nearly 4 seasons, two fourth place finishes (Australia, 2000 – Eriksson) and (Nice Britain, 2001- McRae) had been its greatest outcomes. Hyundai subsequently ended its association with its British companion Motor Sport Developments (MSD), that developed the automotive, in the course of the 2003 season. It wasn’t till 2012 that the model introduced plans to return in 2014, with the i20 designed and developed by a brand new manufacturing facility group arrange in Alzenau, Germany.

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The journey to Mexico’s brutal excessive altitude tough gravel levels in 2014 was solely the third outing for the brand new i20 and had come off the again of a troublesome begin to Hyundai’s second spell in WRC. A disastrous double retirement for Neuville and Dani Sordo on the opening stage of the i20’s debut in Monte Carlo was a nightmare situation, whereas Neuville and Juho Hanninen crashed out of the next Rally Sweden.

Hyundai opted for the i20 to hold its problem on returning to the WRC

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

However when the i20 hit the gravel of Mexico, Hyundai’s fortunes turned. It wasn’t nevertheless plain crusing as Neuville battled engine points early within the rally whereas his team-mate, former manufacturing facility Subaru driver Chris Atkinson, was hampered by {an electrical} subject and a damaged proper rear suspension on the Friday.

This version of Rally Mexico was a very brutal affair, which truly favoured the WRC newbies. A crash for Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen, a damaged alternator for M-Sport’s Mikko Hirvonen and smashed suspension for Citroen’s Kris Meeke helped elevate Neuville to fifth on the finish of Friday, albeit 2m30.2s adrift of runaway chief Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier.

The checklist of retirements continued to develop on Saturday when second-placed Mads Ostberg broken the suspension on his Citroen DS3. The relentless excessive price of attrition coupled with improved velocity from Neuville, lifted the Belgian into the third, 4m37.0s in arrears.

“We emptied the camel luggage in some unspecified time in the future, however we had the bottle of beer from the rostrum that was given as a substitute of champagne. On the finish, it was the one choice left to avoid wasting the rostrum” Thierry Neuville

It appeared as if a breakthrough first WRC podium for Hyundai was on the playing cards after Neuville and co-driver Gilsoul held on to safe third on Sunday behind the dominant Volkswagen pair of winner Ogier and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. The outcome sparked wild celebrations on the rostrum, which included the pair receiving a large one litre bottle of Corona beer, courtesy of the rally sponsors Corona. And it was fortunate it wasn’t sprayed or consumed there after which.

In a matter of moments, jubilation turned to panic as unbeknown to Neuville the run by way of the ultimate Energy Stage had pieced a small gap within the i20’s radiator and coolant had slowly started to empty away. Warning lights ablaze, Neuville introduced the automotive to a halt on the highway part and a heartbreaking retirement gave the impression to be on the horizon. The provisional podium outcome would solely be secured if Neuville and Gilsoul might full the ultimate 20.5 mile highway part to the ultimate service within the rally’s host metropolis Leon.

“We bought a high temperature alarm and we noticed we had a gap within the radiator, so we needed to repair it and it was very aggravating for us as we nonetheless had an extended highway part to go,” says Neuville.

To be a profitable driver and co-driver within the WRC, being resourceful and in a position to assume on the fly are key attributes. These expertise got here to the fore because the pair had been in a position to repair the opening within the radiator with their instruments within the automotive, however changing the misplaced fluid was extra complicated. With fluid required to refill the automotive’s radiator and water from the motive force’s and co-driver’s camel luggage already gone, Neuville and Gilsoul had been determined. It was at this second when the pair dived for the bottle of Corona handed to them on the rostrum as a final resort.

Neuville's run to Hyundai's  first podium was almost knocked off course in the final road section

Neuville’s run to Hyundai’s first podium was nearly knocked off target within the remaining highway part

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“We weren’t left with another option to be trustworthy,” recollects Neuville. “We emptied the camel luggage in some unspecified time in the future I believe however we had the bottle of beer from the rostrum that was given as a substitute of champagne. On the finish, it was the one choice left to avoid wasting the rostrum. It was an enormous one [bottle], nevertheless it helped us safe the primary podium for the group.”

Extremely, it had the specified impact because the i20 brimming with one in all Mexico’s most interesting alcoholic drinks accomplished the highway part to Leon to clinch the rostrum and reduce the quickly rising coronary heart charges within the Hyundai camp. This most surprising of outcomes created a chunk of priceless advertising gold for the rally sponsors. So as to add additional gloss to the yarn, final 12 months the story was voted by a panel of consultants as one of many 50 biggest moments in WRC historical past.

“It’s all the time good wanting again on the footage kind the previous,” Neuville provides. “I do not forget that scenario. I imply at the moment it was crucial to safe the primary podium for Hyundai in WRC after solely three races. We had been near shedding all of it after the end of the Energy Stage, however we dealt with it and made some good promoting on the similar time. We benefitted from it.”

Whereas the dramatic scenes nonetheless go away many in awe in the present day, it’s all a part of being rally driver in keeping with Neuville.

“We’re not solely drivers and co-drivers, we’re additionally mechanics and now we have to make selections on our personal when it comes to technique, tyre decisions and tyre administration. Generally we’re out on the levels on our personal with out telephone sign, and if now we have an issue now we have to resolve it in a few seconds and take the proper selections. That is what rally is about and what makes it a lot extra exhausting generally than another motorsport self-discipline.”

Podium secured, Hyundai went on to attain a 3rd in Rally Poland earlier than Neuville claimed the group’s first WRC win at a chaotic Rally Germany, that extremely began with Neuville flipping his i20 in Thursday’s shakedown. The unlikely restoration, aided by crashes from Ogier, Latvala and Meeke helped Neuville head Sordo for a one-two on the best way to the Belgian ending sixth within the drivers’ standings. Since then, Hyundai has steadily climbed the rally rankings including 24 extra victories (Neuville scoring 16 of these) along with profitable back-to-back constructors’ crowns in 2019 and 2020.

“After the primary podium we bought the primary win after which I’ve had plenty of podiums, some good fights and all good reminiscences and hopefully lots extra to return,” he provides, as he prepares to rekindle a number of the magic of 2014 to fireside Hyundai to a different podium this weekend.

Rally Mexico winner Sebastien Ogier celebrates with his giant Corona. Neuville found a better use for his...

Rally Mexico winner Sebastien Ogier celebrates along with his big Corona. Neuville discovered a greater use for his…

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

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