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World Rally Championship

Get ready to rally round

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In what is officially its shakedown period the Hyundai Shell WRT has already stunned its big-name opponents with two strong podium finishes and impressive reliability in this year’s World Rally Championship. Now, it’s heading Downunder to thrill Australia’s legions of rally fans.
Australian fans of the spectacular World Rally Championship will soon get their long-awaited chance to see the giant-killing Hyundai Shell World Rally Team in action. And with the team in scintillating form, September’s Rally Australia promises thrills aplenty.
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Rather than taking ‘baby steps’ in its first exploratory year in the championship, the Hyundai Shell WRC team already has established itself as a major force and rally-winning contender. Colourful lead driver, Belgium’s Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul again stood on the podium at last week’s Rally Poland. Neuville’s third place in Poland matching his previous best finish this year, a storming third place in March’s Rally Mexico.

Neuville’s strong performance in Poland – together with his Rally Mexico third place and fifth and seventh place finishes in Argentina and Portugal respectively – also moved him to an impressive sixth place at the halfway point of this year’s World Rally Championship.

The 71st Rally Poland also marked a watershed performance for the fledgling Hyundai Shell World Rally Team with all three cars finishing the event – and all three in the Top 10. Impressively, all three drivers claimed stage wins and what was an especially gruelling event for all WRC teams.

Hyundai Shell WRT driver, Finland’s Juho Hanninen and co-driver Tomi Tuominen finished Rally Poland a strong seventh overall – claiming 12th position in this year’s championship – while fellow Hyundai Shell WRT driver Hayden Paddon and fellow-Kiwi co-driver John Kennard claimed an impressive eighth.

His determination to fend off previous Rally Poland winner Mikko Hirvonen in breathtaking fashion in the dying stages of the event also won rising star Neuville even greater respect among the passionate World Rally Championship faithful. Famous for both his flamboyant driving style and trend-setting eyewear, Neuville already has a legion of ardent fans worldwide.

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Formed just 12 months ago and competing for the first time in this year’s World Rally Championship against the sport’s superstar drivers and teams, the Hyundai Shell WRT ostensibly is gathering information and experience towards a serious tilt at next year’s WRC. Yet its impressive performances already this season has seen the team rattle the best of the best.

Its superb Rally Poland result came on top of the team’s two-car finish in the car-breaking previous event, Rally Italia Sardegna in early June.

Hayden Paddon’s 12th-place finish in Italy in his debut for the team was a hugely encouraging sign for the young Kiwi driver, especially given Sardinia’s tough, slippery conditions. Neuville also brought his Hyundai Shell i20 home in the Top 20 after what was for most drivers in the field a demanding rally they were happy to forget.

Next up in the championship is Rally Finland followed by Rally Deutschland, both in August, while the event Aussie fans have been waiting to see up close – the Coates Hire Rally Australia – runs from September 11-14.

Set in the beautiful hinterland behind Coffs Harbour, on the NSW far north coast, Rally Australia promises a uniquely Aussie brand of rallying spectacle. With stages held over a mix of hard-based shire public roads and private tracks, some tight and twisty and others fast and flowing. Many stages travel through dense rainforest, with roadside trees an ever-present danger, while one of the event highlights will be two passes over the 49.37km Nambucca, one of the longest stages in this year’s championship.

With a wealth of experience already under its belt – and Australian-born team member and recognised hard-charger Chris Atkinson in one of the Hyundai Shell cars – Rally Australia already is shaping up as a tantalising treat for fans of both the WRC and Hyundai in general.

For more information about Chris Atkinson and the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, click here and on YouTube.