When beer saved the day for Neuville

Hyundai's first WRC podium came in bizarre circumstances in 2014, with the event's title sponsor coming to the rescue


Product placement is everything to advertisers in elite sport, but it’s impossible to imagine anybody at Corona envisioning Mexico’s most popular beer having as profound an impact as it did on Rally México, 2014.

Rallies are often won or lost by dazzling displays of bravery on the stages, but it was a one-liter bottle of Corona that was the difference between Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul scoring Hyundai Motorsport’s first ever podium in the World Rally Championship or retiring, heartbroken, on the road section.

Rally México was Hyundai’s third rally back in the WRC with its all-new i20 WRC and proved to be a punishing affair. Volkswagen scored a 1-2 finish led by Sébastien Ogier, but he and Jari-Matti Latvala finished over four minutes clear of Neuville who was third.

But that was just the provisional result. Neuville still had to make the 20.5-mile trip back from the El Brinco powerstage to service in León – usually a formality, but trouble was afoot.

Somewhere late on the powerstage, Neuville had pierced his Hyundai’s radiator leaving a small hole which soon allowed the coolant to drain away.

Moments after finishing the final stage Neuville noticed the engine temperatures were climbing rapidly and pulled over to assess the situation.

Rally drivers are quick thinkers, so faced with this worrying situation Neuville quickly became resourceful.

SS 13 Otates

“We could fill the hole,” he said, “that was no problem – we had the stuff with us in the car to fix this, but then we had to re-fill the radiator with water.”

Without any water, Neuville was surely in trouble. Except he wasn’t.

Earlier, like all crews, he and Gilsoul had been handed a one-liter bottle of Corona at the end of the stage as Corona was a partner of Rally México. In the circumstances it would’ve been tempting to crack the bottle open and spray it in jubilation to toast their important and hard-earned result.

It might not have been the headline Hyundai and Neuville wanted, but for Corona it was a marketing dream. And either way, it’s likely Neuville has never loved the sight of an ice-cold beer more than he did that day in 2014.

LLegada y Podium Final

But the Belgians thought better of it, instead opting to bring the bottle back to the boys and girls at Hyundai Motorsport so that everyone could celebrate as a team.

It ultimately proved to be a decision that saved Neuville’s weekend.

“There was some beer,” he recalled. “We took off the top and poured it in. After that we drove for a while and the temperature was going up still. I was trying not to get stressed, but it was a difficult moment when we were thinking of the team’s first podium.

“We stopped again and added more beer. After we drove some more and the temperature was not going up so much, then I knew it would be OK.”