Hyundai Motorsport has registered a top-five finish in this weekendâ€™s Tour de Corse, round 11 of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with two cars finishing in the top seven. Hayden Paddon moved into fifth overall after a strong final day with Dani Sordo claiming the teamâ€™s 20th stage win of the season and moving into seventh place after the Power Stage. Kevin Abbringâ€™s impressive Tour de Corse came to an abrupt end with an off in SS8 which forced him to retire from fifth place.
Hyundai Motorsport has concluded its debut Tour de Corse with two Hyundai i20 WRC cars inside the top seven after a strong final day.
Hayden Paddon was the highest placed Hyundai Motorsport driver in fifth place, two places ahead of Dani Sordo, who put in a stellar performance today to take a stage win and move up into seventh place overall after a competitive Power Stage run.
Thierry Neuville brought his Hyundai i20 WRC home safely to register a rally finish, while Kevin Abbring, who had been chasing a top-five finish, was forced to retire in SS8 after an off-road excursion.
Three stages were completed today – the busiest day of rallying in the entire Tour de Corse event. The cancellation of Fridayâ€™s SS2 and Saturdayâ€™s SS4 (43.69km Casamozza-Ponte Leccia) as a result of torrential rain and subsequently damaged roads reduced the total number of stages to seven, but even so it has been an action-packed and eventful rally.
All three Sunday stages were contested, although damp and slippery conditions that have been a key factor in this weekendâ€™s rally remained in some places on the opening stages, putting an emphasis on tyre selection and management.
Scoring his fifth top-five finish of the season, Paddon (#20 Hyundai i20 WRC) has given his most accomplished tarmac performance to date with fifth overall on his Tour de Corse debut. He set the third fastest time in this morningâ€™s long stage, setting the same time as the eventual rally winner.
Paddon commented: â€œWeâ€™ve made a good improvement in our tarmac driving technique this weekend. We still have things to improve but considering the conditions this weekend Iâ€™m happy with what weâ€™ve achieved. We lost a lot of time on the damp first stage on Friday and were 15th overall, so I never expected to finish in the top five. This morningâ€™s opening stages featured the same changeable conditions weâ€™ve seen all weekend, so I had to drive accordingly. The long stage was tricky with three or four changes of rhythm but itâ€™s been another valuable learning experience. The times were good and we were able to move into fifth, which is a satisfying result. It certainly gives us something solid on which to build for Spain.â€
Sordo (#8 Hyundai i20 WRC) has been on competitive pace all weekend, including a sensational stage win in SS8 (41.46km ZÃ©rubia-Martini). A broken wheel rim on Friday afternoon, caused by hitting a stone, hampered the Spaniardâ€™s rally, preventing him from fighting for a much stronger result.
Sordo said: â€œI have mixed feelings at the end of this rally, to be honest. We broke the rim on the first day, which lost us two minutes of time, and without that we could really have pushed for a great result. When you look at the pace that we have set over the weekend – and particularly this morning with the stage win – we could have fought for the podium. Even so, we can take positives from our performance level. I was very happy with the car and the team did a great job here in Corsica. Itâ€™s been a tough rally but with some beautiful stages. Iâ€™m now looking forward to my home rally in Spain.â€
Neuville (#7 Hyundai i20 WRC) finished Tour de Corse in positive spirits. An early retirement on Friday morning ended his chances of a strong result but since re-joining on Saturday morning under Rally 2 regulations, the Belgian has fought hard to recover as many positions as possible.
Neuville commented: â€œIâ€™ve been quite pleased with the way which weâ€™ve finished this rally, even if the result is not what we wanted to achieve this weekend. I have had a better feeling today and enjoyed the three stages weâ€™ve run. The conditions all weekend have been very demanding and difficult but the team has worked well to react to the changing situations. Obviously, my rally was affected by the retirement on Friday morning, so there wasnâ€™t much we could do to fight for manufacturer points, which was a shame. We have learned a lot and we will fight back in Spain.â€
It was a heart-breaking end to the rally for Abbring (#10 Hyundai i20 WRC) as he stopped in SS8 following an off-road excursion. The Dutchman has impressed this weekend, running as high as second on Friday and fighting for fifth overall until his retirement.
Abbring said: â€œIt was really disappointing to finish the rally with a retirement. I wanted to finish as high up the classification as possible, knowing that we were in a strong fight for the top-five. In SS8, my notes were simply too fast for one of the corners and I went off the road at the exit. I slid off-track a couple of metres down. Although the car was fine with no obvious damage – it was on its wheels leaning against a bush – we couldnâ€™t make it back onto the road. It is really unfortunate but on the positive side of things, we have shown good pace this weekend and had a strong run, so we have to capitalise on this in our next event, which will be Wales Rally GB.â€
For the Hyundai Motorsport team, the Tour de Corse result has further intensified the battle for second in the Manufacturersâ€™ Championship with just one point separating second and third. With two rallies remaining in the 2015 WRC, it will be a battle to the every end, something that the team relishes.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: â€œThere are some positives to be found from our first ever Tour de Corse. This has been a tough rally for everyone with demanding driving conditions. After the disrupted opening two days, we had three stages today so there was still a lot to play for. Hayden and Dani both pushed hard today and were rewarded for their efforts, moving into fifth and seventh respectively. Thierry, too, put the disappointment of Friday behind him to find improvements. Unfortunately, it wasnâ€™t such a good day for Kevin after he went off the road in SS8, ending his impressive performance. He has made a lot of people take notice of him this weekend, and Iâ€™m sure that will really help him for his next rally in Wales GB next month. We can leave Corsica satisfied but weâ€™ve relinquished second place in the Championship by one point, so the battle will be back on in Spain.â€
Overall Final Classification
J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:39:46.7
E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +43.1
A. Mikkelsen / O. Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +46.3
K. Meeke / P. Nagle (CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC) +1:33.4
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:53.6
M. Ã˜stberg / J. Andersson (CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC) +1:59.8
D. Sordo / M. MartÃ (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:10.4
B. Bouffier / T. De La Haye (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:12.8
S. Sarrazin / J. J. Renucci (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:39.3â€‹
O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:43.0