Hyundai Motorsport has wrapped up the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm finishing in fourth place in Rally Japan.
On the final day, Sunday, November 19, the team faced three challenging stages, each tackled twice, without a midday service. The unpredictable conditions persisted, making grip levels hard to anticipate. Lappi and Ferm encountered a threat from Takamoto Katsuta on Sunday morning, with the gap narrowing to 16 seconds as they headed into the remote tire fitting zone.
A stellar performance on Special Stage 20 – Ena City 2 – allowed the Finnish duo to maintain their lead over Katsuta and secure a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 finish in the stage. They then clinched the third fastest time on the final Power Stage, earning three bonus points.
Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe concluded a challenging weekend, retiring on Friday while in pursuit of victory. Despite the setbacks, they showcased their prowess by winning both runs of Ena City and Asahi Kougen special stages and securing second place on each Nenoue Kougen test. Their final position of 13th doesn’t fully reflect the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team’s speed in the unpredictable conditions. Neuville and Wydaeghe managed to salvage some points with a maximum score in the Power Stage.
Overall, the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team notched up 2 victories, 15 podiums, and 67 stage wins in the 2023 season, securing second place in the manufacturers’ championship. The team is gearing up for a stronger comeback in 2024 with a refreshed lineup and a clear focus on winning.
Crew Notes from Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm:
Lappi expressed satisfaction with his improved pace throughout the event, especially after making a crucial suspension adjustment during the tire fitting. He looks forward to returning stronger in the 2024 season.
Crew Notes from Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe:
Neuville acknowledged the disappointment of a mistake that affected their weekend. Despite the challenges, he looks ahead to a promising 2024 season, aiming for more victories.
Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul commented on Rally Japan, summarizing the season’s highs and lows. He highlighted the team’s positive aspects and acknowledged the need to address missed opportunities. Abiteboul also paid tribute to the late team-mate Craig, emphasizing the inspiration drawn from his passion for the sport.
Final Results Rally Japan:
1. E. Evans / S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid 3:32:08.8
2. S. Ogier / V. Landais Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:17.7
3. K. Rovanperä / J. Halttunen Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:46.5
4. E. Lappi / J. Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +2:50.3
5. T. Katsuta / A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +3:10.3
6. O. Tänak / M. Järveoja Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +3:28.3
7. A. Mikkelsen / T. Eriksen Škoda Fabia RS +7:33.7
8. N. Gryazin / K. Aleksandrov Škoda Fabia RS +8:49.6
9. K. Kajetanowicz / M. Szczepaniak Škoda Fabia RS +19:25.9
10. H. Arai / H. Tachikui Peugeot 208 Rally4 +22:22.7
2023 FIA WRC Final Manufacturers’ Standings:
1. Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 504
2. Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 399
3. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 271
2023 FIA WRC Final Drivers’ Standings:
1. K. Rovanperä 235
2. E. Evans 191
3. T. Neuville 184
4. O. Tänak 162
5. S. Ogier 114
6. E. Lappi 98
7. T. Katsuta 89
8. D. Sordo 63
9. T. Suninen 42