Consolatory podium for Hyundai in Rally Italia Sardegna
Neuville closed the gap in the Drivers’ Championship
Hyundai Motorsport has salvaged a third-place podium finish in this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna, round seven of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), after a difficult weekend for the team.
All three of the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews showed the pace to compete for victory. Neuville and Sordo experienced car-related problems, which prevented them from capitalising on their potential, while Paddon twice crashed out.
After 19 special stages, including this morning’s repeated loop of the 14.06km Cala Flumini and 6.96km Sassari-Argentiera tests, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul cemented third position, their fifth consecutive podium this season.
Dani Sordo and Marc Martí completed the rally as the second best placed Hyundai Motorsport crew, following an accident for Hayden Paddon and Seb Marshall in SS18 (Cala Flumini 2). The Kiwi and Briton crashed their #4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC at a right-hander, but were thankfully unharmed, although their rally was brought to a premature end.
It had been a more positive morning for Paddon up to that point, following a frustrating Saturday, as he claimed his second stage win of the weekend in the opening run through Cala Flumini.
Sordo maintained the team’s momentum into SS17 (Sassari-Argentiera) with his fourth stage win of the Sardinia event. Those results have taken Hyundai Motorsport’s total stage wins for 2017 to 48, the highest number for the team in any of its WRC seasons to date.
It also represented the second rally in a row in which all three Hyundai Motorsport crews scored stage wins, underpinning the feeling of what might have been this weekend without the various issues.
Both Sordo and Neuville added important Power Stage points to their drivers’ totals, finishing second and fourth respectively in the final stage of the rally.
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville and Gilsoul were left lamenting brake dramas on Saturday that halted their charge for a second consecutive Sardinia victory. The Belgians still took their third podium in a row on the Mediterranean island, matching their 2015 result. Neuville has scored Power Stage points in each of the rallies so far this season, and with today’s result slightly closes the gap to Championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
Neuville commented: “Overall it has been a positive rally, even though we are disappointed at not being able to fight for the victory this weekend. We were just unlucky with a brake issue on Saturday that lost us over a minute, which we were not able to get back. To score a podium in this tough rally is still good and extends our run of positive results this season. I gave everything I could in the Power Stage but the road conditions didn’t really suit us and we weren’t able to raise the ride height enough. Still, we took a few more points and should be reasonably satisfied. We have closed the gap to Ogier ever so slightly but we know it will need a big push into this second half of the season to catch him.”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
With four stage wins over the course of the rally, Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí demonstrated strong potential on each of the three days. It is the most stage wins for the pair in a single event as a Hyundai Motorsport crew, emphasising just what might have been possible this weekend. They also doubled their season total of Power Stage points with an assertive second place in SS19.
Sordo commented: “A much better way for us to end the rally today compared to the frustrations of earlier in the event! I was happy to take a stage win this morning, our fourth of the weekend. We wanted to save our tyres for a good push in the Power Stage and we did just that. It wasn’t easy but I am happy to take some points away from this event. Without the turbo issues we had on Friday, we would have been more firmly in the hunt for a podium but we can do nothing about that now. We will just focus on the next rally in Poland and target a more representative result for us and the team.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Paddon and Marshall had looked on course to finish Rally Italia Sardegna in style after taking a stage win on the morning’s opening pass. Unfortunately, the crew experienced an incident similar to the one that forced them to retire on Saturday, ending any hopes of Power Stage points.
Paddon said: “After Saturday’s misfortune, we wanted to use today to get back into a rhythm. Things started out well with a stage win, but that was the extent of our positives from today. In the penultimate stage, we had another very strange incident on a ‘nothing’ corner, where like yesterday I clipped the inside, which sent us wide. I don’t know why this is happening. I am incredibly disappointed in myself and for the team. I want to learn from this but at the same time put it behind us and look ahead to Poland.”
Hyundai Motorsport has seen the gap to Manufacturers’ Championship leaders M-Sport increase to 40 points after more missed opportunities in Sardinia. Despite scoring more stage wins and showing strength across all three crews, the team can only take minimal consolation from a solitary podium this weekend.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have to reflect on this rally with the realistic fact that we have lost ground to M-Sport in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Our congratulations to them, and to Ott Tanak for his debut WRC win. We just had too many issues this weekend, and missed the chance to assert our authority on the event, as we should have. All crews showed their potential with eight stage wins in total but it wasn’t to be. Of course, it’s frustrating but we have to learn from this and regroup for the next event in Poland. A podium is still a decent result and Thierry has closed the gap to Ogier by a few points in the Drivers’ Championship. The team has worked hard this weekend, so we will gladly take the consolatory podium, all things considered.”
Preparing for Poland
WRC continues its run of gravel events onto Rally Poland later this month, round eight of the 13-rally Championship.
Taking place from 29 June to 2 July, the event will be run over 23 stages. It’s an event favoured by Hyundai Motorsport as the scene of podium finishes for Thierry Neuville in 2014, and Hayden Paddon last season.
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