Hyundai Motorsport has begun its home rally with two New Generation i20 WRCs in the hunt for podium positions; Thierry Neuville holds third and Dani Sordo fourth overall. Neuville led a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2 in the first run through Moselland (SS2) with team-mate Sordo right behind. Hayden Paddon had a difficult opening day in the #20 car but is still holding a top-eight position with 13 stages of Rallye Deutschland remaining.
Hyundai Motorsport has enjoyed a strong start to Rallye Deutschland, round nine of the 13-round 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), with the team just 5.9s off the rally lead after the opening five stages.
The German round of the WRC is an important event for Hyundai Motorsport, whose factory is located in Alzenau just over 200km from the service park in Trier. The rally also brings back happy memories for the team as it heralded the team’s first WRC victory and 1-2 result in its maiden season two years ago.
Thierry Neuville triumphed on that special day in 2014, and the Belgian looks to be on equally competitive form again in this year’s Rallye Deutschland. Neuville holds third position overall at the end of Friday’s stages, right on the tail of current rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen.
Fellow Hyundai Shell World Rally Team driver Dani Sordo has made a strong return to WRC action today in fourth place overall, with Hayden Paddon in eighth for the Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team.
Neuville (#3 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul have been consistently inside the top-three on the opening day. The pair scored a stage win in SS2 (Moselland) and will be hoping to maintain position on Saturday with almost 150km of unforgiving stages – including the 40km Panzerplatte Lang tests.
Neuville commented: “We have plenty to be encouraged by after this first day in Germany. I feel that we can definitely be in the fight this weekend. The rain overnight made the opening stage quite tricky but the time was still surprisingly good. The conditions got more difficult after the first cars had passed, bringing mud onto the road, but we remained calm and kept the driving clean. We made some setting changes and I felt I could push a bit more. It took time to get used to the car after lunch but things were working well. In SS4, I cut a bit too much in a very tight hairpin, spun the car and had to reverse. That cost about five seconds. Overall I think we are in good shape and I hope we can register a good ‘home’ result for the team this weekend.”
Sordo (#4 New Generation i20 WRC) was forced to sit out Rally Finland while he recovered from a testing injury, but he bounced back in style today alongside co-driver Marc Martí. The Spaniards took to the German tarmac with confidence, helping the team to a 1-2 in SS2 and ending day one just 12.7s from the rally leader.
Sordo said: “First of all, it is a pleasure to be back in WRC action after missing Finland. I feel good and I think we have had a very nice start to this rally here in Germany. The opening stage this morning was a bit of a surprise because already there was a lot of mud from the earlier cars, which cost us some time. I didn’t feel completely comfortable but that improved during the day. We tried to push a bit more but always being cautious because it’s easy to make a small mistake. The afternoon conditions were a bit less tricky and I could enjoy more. We are well placed at the end of the first day but tomorrow will decisive with the Panzerplatte stages.”
Paddon (#20 New Generation i20 WRC) and co-driver John Kennard had something of a day to forget in the German vineyards. A spin on the opening stage set the scene for a tough start but the Kiwis will fight back tomorrow and aim to improve on their current eighth place.
Paddon said: “It’s been one of those days and we’ve certainly been learning the hard way! We had an eventful morning loop. The conditions were tricky, mainly dry but there was a lot of mud in the cuts. We had a big spin in the vineyards and lost 20 seconds. Then, in the following stage, we hit a drain on the rear-left, which added to the time loss. We made it to lunchtime service relatively intact but had more drama in the afternoon. The repeat of Mittelmosel we had a big moment heading downhill fast in sixth when we went off. We were fortunate to get away with it, really. I’m hoping for less drama tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
There is plenty of local support for Hyundai Motorsport as it aims to get back on the podium in Rallye Deutschland. The New Generation i20 WRC has the opportunity to stretch its legs on the German tarmac, which offers a stark contrast to the recent high speed encounters in Poland and Finland.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “It’s early days but we seem to be in the mix based on our performance in the opening stages. This is a special rally for our team, being so close to our factory in Alzenau, as well as where we scored our first ever WRC victory in 2014. That doesn’t mean we are taking things for granted; we know how challenging these stages can be. It’s the first proper tarmac rally for the New Generation i20 WRC so we have been validating the work we carried out with the car in pre-event testing. I am encouraged to see where we are compared to our rivals with Thierry running in a strong third and Dani in fourth. Things can change in an instant – for better or worse – so we’ll stay focused and our drivers will have to treat each stage with the respect they deserve.”
Saturday’s itinerary takes in nine stages in total, run over 148.57 competitive SS kilometres on the Baumholder military roads. Each loop will culminate with the daunting 40.80km Panzerplatte Lang stage with drivers aiming to steer clear of the notorious Hinkelsteine.
Overall Classification after Day One
A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 59:42.6
S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +4.3
T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +5.9
D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +12.7
O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +55.4
S. Lefebvre / G. Moreau (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:06.6
M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:32.4
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:45.0
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