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WRC - Another podium for Hyundai in Mexico

Sordo finishes 2nd for his return

13 March 2018 - 16h07, by Emmanuel Touzot 

Hyundai Motorsport has secured its most competitive finish on the gruelling gravel stages of Rally México, as Dani Sordo picked up his first podium of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a strong run to second.

The Spaniard, along with co-driver Carlos del Barrio, has been on impressive form all weekend, registering three stage wins and being in victory contention for much of the event. In their second WRC round of 2018, the #6 crew led three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars inside the top-six with Andreas Mikkelsen finishing just off the podium in fourth and Thierry Neuville in sixth.

The combined team result has helped Hyundai Motorsport to extend its lead in the WRC manufacturers’ championship. With points awarded for second and fourth, the team has built up a 12-point advantage after three rounds, its most competitive start to a WRC season.

Keep the pressure on

Sunday’s final stages saw plenty more of the drama that has epitomised an exciting Rally México all weekend. Crews tackled the 24.32km Alfaro stage followed by two timed runs through the 11.07km Las Minas test.

Starting the day third overall, Sordo’s focus was on securing a podium, with an eye on pushing for second place. An incident for Citroën’s Kris Meeke on the opening stage helped the Spaniard, as he was elevated into the position. Fourth placed Mikkelsen closed the gap to Meeke but the Norwegian ran into his own difficulties in the rally’s penultimate stage, getting briefly stuck in a ditch on SS21.

Neuville continued to gain experience of being first on the road on Sunday. The Belgian battled through to a solid sixth place, overcoming a number of issues during the weekend. In a closely fought Power Stage, with 1.4-seconds splitting the top-four times, Neuville took three extra points for third place with Mikkelsen taking two points for fourth.

Second place in the first gravel event of the season marks an improvement on the team’s previous third-place Mexican podiums, achieved by Neuville in 2014 and 2017.

Sordo said: “I am very happy to score this podium after what has been an enjoyable, competitive but tough weekend. We have shown good pace here in previous seasons, so I was optimistic that we would be able to fight for the top-three this weekend. It wasn’t entirely straightforward; even in the Power Stage there was a scary moment when we picked up a rear right puncture. With stones in the middle of the road, it was so easy for something to happen so we backed off and took it carefully to the end. A podium result is so important and we made the most of our road position in these really tricky gravel stages. It’s been a good team effort and I am particularly pleased to see us increase our lead in the manufacturers’ championship. Thanks to Carlos and to the whole team for this result.”

Mikkelsen said: “It has not been an easy rally for us, and we haven’t really been able to find the optimum pace or performance that we needed here. We made some changes to the car in service on Saturday evening, and I felt more comfortable in this morning’s final stages. We weren’t really in a position to improve, so we simply tried to keep things clean and tidy. There were definitely areas where we could have attacked more, but finishing fourth gives us important points. As a team we have increased our lead in the manufacturers’ table, and I have also moved up to third in the drivers’ classification, which is a positive to take away.”

Neuville said: “We approached the final morning of the rally determined to score as many points as possible for the drivers’ championship. I gave it all I could in the Power Stage, and I’m happy to take three extra points away from what has been a very tough weekend. Starting first on the road each day was far from ideal, but that’s part of the game. It was actually a useful experience to deal with those conditions, despite the obvious time disadvantage. We had some other issues over the weekend, so to come away with sixth place and to keep up the pressure in the championship is important. Thanks to everyone in the team. We have a never-give-up mentality, and Corsica will be another story.”

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have witnessed once again just how tough Rally México can be, with lots of drama right up to the Power Stage! We are delighted to finish the weekend with our best ever Mexico result and to increase our lead of the manufacturers’ championship. Dani and Carlos have had a strong weekend, and it’s great to see them on the podium. Andreas and Thierry both picked up important points in the Power Stage, concluding a generally positive rally. Like all teams, we’ve had some issues to deal with along the way, but finishing with all three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars inside the top-six in such a demanding event is very encouraging.”

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