All the interest earlier today may have centered on which order Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak would finish this year’s Acropolis Rally Greece in, and whether the eventual team order that was delivered (by Hyundai Motorsport’s president no less) was the right one.
But let’s take a step back and reflect on this result in isolation, as Neuville’s eventual victory allowed Hyundai to set two team records in the World Rally Championship.
With Neuville first, Tänak second and Dani Sordo, the i20 N Rally1s locked out the podium – something that had never happened in the history of Hyundai Motorsport before this weekend.
Hyundai has recorded plenty of 1-2 finishes since returning in 2014. Its first-ever win was actually a 1-2, with Neuville winning Rally Germany from Sordo – despite his dramatic crash on the pre-event shakedown.
The second 1-2 in Hyundai’s history didn’t come for another three years when Neuville won Rally Poland by over a minute from team-mate Hayden Paddon. Tänak, then an M-Sport Ford driver, had pushed Neuville hard for victory before crashing out on the final morning.
Neuville led Hyundai 1-2 number three in Argentina 2019 when he edged Andreas Mikkelsen’s similar i20 Coupe WRC as well as in Ypres 2021 when he beat Craig Breen.
Tänak’s 2020 Estonia and 2022 Ypres victories were both followed by a fellow Hyundai (Breen and Neuville) while Sordo’s second of two Sardinia wins was a 1-2 with Neuville tucked in behind too.
That makes Acropolis 2022 Hyundai’s eighth 1-2 in history, but its first-ever 1-2-3, a moment which wasn’t lost on deputy team director Julien Moncet.
“We are opening a lot of pages in our history this year,” Moncet told DirtFish.
“I hope we will have more pages. Definitely it’s a magical moment, a historical moment for our team, for our brand.
“Since 2014 we have never achieved an entire podium so yeah, it’s just incredible.”
Neuville felt a deep sense of satisfaction too, having driven for Hyundai in every single one of its WRC starts since it rejoined the championship eight years ago.
“The 1-2-3 I think is a great result for the whole team,” he told DirtFish.
“It’s a historical result as well for the manufacturer and I think after all those years, I am probably the one who has the most feelings for this great result after being so long with the team and knowing everybody with the team.
“I know that everybody feels quite proud now.”
But this wasn’t just Hyundai’s first 1-2-3 – this win was also the first time the team has ever won three WRC rallies on the bounce too.
That’s a statistic that’s going to mean far less to everybody within Hyundai Motorsport and even the entire Hyundai motor company, but it’s an important one to acknowledge nonetheless.
Neuville has recorded plenty of back-to-back WRC victories for Hyundai in the past – the first batch coming in Corsica and Argentina 2017. Ironically, Neuville then repeated the precise same feat two years later on the same sequence of rallies.
And in 2018 he did the double in Portugal and Sardinia – a particularly sensational result in that epic powerstage finale against Sébastien Ogier.
But building on Tänak’s first successive wins for Hyundai in Finland and Belgium, Neuville’s Acropolis victory boosts Hyundai to three on the bounce. Considering how far the team lagged behind just six months ago, it’s quite remarkable that Hyundai should secure these records with the i20 N Rally1 which long looked to be one of the poorest cars it had ever produced.
“I don’t think that anyone would have put a single euro on us at the start of the season. To be honest, I think they were quite right,” Moncet said.
“We knew where we were and what we wanted to achieve. We knew that the team was still in place, it was the same team. It is the same resources. There was no reason that we would not be able to catch up. The question was not if but more when.
“Even me, I was not expecting to be back in the game that early because we were really far away, there are limited testing days, there is a lot of problems to get new parts and so on.
“I’m very impressed by what we have achieved. You could say the first win was luck, the second win OK; when we start to have four wins and it’s been three in a row, we have as well to be a bit more confident in ourselves and proud of ourselves.”
The team will, of course, celebrate accordingly.
“Maybe the biggest moment I will have tonight is if I stay too close to the swimming pool. But I think they already plan to push me into the water. For sure we will celebrate,” Moncet confirmed.
Traditions 🤿@OttTanak #WRC @Rally_d_Italia 🇮🇹 pic.twitter.com/g0zPSiFIaN
— DirtFish (@DirtFishRally) June 5, 2022
But what about his trainers, which were ruined by the traditional jump into the harbor when Tänak secured Hyundai’s first win of the season in Sardinia?
“I don’t care about my trainers. I think I can get other ones!”