All the Hyundai crews set some outstanding stage times throughout the season, clearly demonstrating the speed and level to which the Accent WRC³ has been developed over the year. But 31-year-old Loix has possibly shone the brightest with incredible performances on a number of rallies. Following an accident in Monte Carlo, the determined Belgian tackled the snow of Sweden with a broken foot – a third fastest time promoted him up the leaderboard and he spent most of the rally in fourth overall before retiring on the final day.
The Belgian was not deterred and, despite recuperating, proved he could still live up to his nickname, setting fastest stage times in Argentina, Greece and Australia – the one in Greece permitting him to run in a podium position of second overall before a rock stopped him in his tracks. His efforts were finally rewarded with a point for the team in New Zealand.
Thinking about the year just gone, Freddy said, "I think it’s clear that this season we didn’t get all the results we deserved. For example in Argentina, Cyprus, Greece and Sweden we were in the top six but were sidelined by minor problems, and then of course I made some silly mistakes like in Australia. But I am really happy to have gone to GB and finished so well."
Juha Kankkunen may not have set the same speeds as younger team-mate Loix but the four-time World Champion was the most consistent driver through the season scoring six of the team’s ten points. With 23 years of world rally experience and 23 world rally wins to his credit, the Finn has without doubt brought a level of expertise to the team unrivalled by most and he is a driver with whom both Loix and Schwarz have enjoyed working, both benefiting from a few useful tips on the way. Juha scored the team’s first point of the season in Sweden and another in Argentina. Hyundai’s debut on the demanding African terrain was clearly boosted by the three-time Safari winner whose sheer grit and determination gave the team a hard earned two-point boost, and a good run on the roads of New Zealand which are not dissimilar to those of his homeland, rewarded the team with a further two points.
German team-mates Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer did not have luck on their side on Rally GB and on a number of other rallies throughout the season but the pair have still brought home points for the team. Taking time to settle into the car at the beginning of the year, Armin proved he was still a force to be reckoned with in Cyprus where treacherous weather conditions challenged most competitors and despite those conditions Armin stood his ground and took his first Hyundai point. Like team-mate Loix, Armin set some excellent stage times throughout the year, most notably a second fastest time in Greece en route to another manufacturer point, as well as top five stage times in Sweden, Cyprus and Deutschland.
"This year hasn’t been very kind to us," reminisced Armin. "We’ve had some highlights and some lowlights. Now I’m looking forward to doing some more testing to prepare for a new season and a clean slate to work from. Next year we have an even bigger challenge – to keep hold of our fourth place."
At the beginning of the season Team Principal David Whitehead stated that the team’s aim was to be the fourth manufacturer in the World Rally Championship and that goal has now been achieved. "I’m delighted for the entire team that we have realised our original objective. Personally I’m chuffed to bits! I’m very proud of what Freddy and Juha have done on this event and I think it is a justification of our speed and performance throughout the season. I think it’s fair to say that we were the fourth manufacturer in terms of the way we have gone this year," said David.
Assessing the team’s progress over its third season at the top level of the sport, David added, "Freddy has really shown the potential of the car and it’s particularly nice that he has brought home the final important point. Armin has worked hard all year but has suffered terrible misfortune. Despite that he has been a great asset to the team’s progress and in bringing home valuable manufacturer points."
In closing David added, "It’s been a privilege to have Juha in the team. He has brought a wealth of experience to the development programme and at times his contribution has been immense, for example, achieving a points finish on our very first Safari Rally. We’re very sad that Juha will not be joining us as we move forward next year."
The first round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship is the traditional season-opener, Rallye Monte Carlo running from 24-26 January, based out of the affluent tax haven Monaco, and is the only round where crews can be faced with any combination of tarmac, snow and ice in the stages of the French Alps.Published 9 December 2002