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Huge disappointment for Hyundai as Neuville loses lead

He went wide, resulting in damage to his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC


By Olivier Ferret

21 January 2017 - 17:51
Huge disappointment for Hyundai as (...)

Hyundai Motorsport’s chances of securing a maiden Rallye Monte-Carlo victory were cruelly ended on Saturday afternoon when Thierry Neuville, who had been in imperious form, damaged his car during the final stage of the day.

Neuville had further increased his impressive lead of the rally to 50 seconds heading into SS13 (Bayons-Bréziers) but his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC ran a bit wide at the exit of a slow corner. A resultant impact caused suspension damage that required Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul to carry out lengthy repairs.

The crew spent thirty minutes on a temporary fix and made it cautiously to the stage-end and then back to Gap for service. The team has worked meticulously to get the #5 car ready for the final day of Rallye Monte-Carlo with manufacturer and Power Stage points still up for grabs.

Further compounding the team’s frustration, Dani Sordo suffered power steering issues on the same stage, which lost him over one minute. The Spaniard still holds a top-five position on the overall classification despite the setback.

Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Sordo had enjoyed a more positive start to Saturday as he benefitted from improved grip conditions on the tricky Monte stages. Along with co-driver Marc Martí, he set two top-three stage times to move comfortably ahead of his nearest challenger, Craig Breen by the end of SS12 (La Batie Montsaleon – Faye 2). Losing time to the power steering issue, the Spanish crew dropped back behind but have their sights on regaining the position during Sunday’s four stages.

Sordo said: “We had a much improved morning compared to the struggles we faced on Friday. The conditions were better, and we were able to find more grip. I was generally a lot happier and more confident in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We still needed to work on the balance but we could set quicker stage times and move up the classification a bit. The afternoon loop continued this trend but then, in the final stage, we suddenly lost the power steering. We were very fortunate that nothing happened and we could make it to the end of the stage. We need to use the positive aspects from today to prepare for the final stages on Sunday – and hopefully to make up a position and score some Power Stage points.”

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

All eyes were on Neuville and Gilsoul at the start of Saturday with pressure expected from their closest challenger Sébastien Ogier. However, the Belgians picked up where they left off on Friday to win SS9 (Lardier et Valenca – Oze), their fifth stage win of the rally. They increased their lead to over one minute in the following stage, and were still firmly in control ahead of the final stage. The incident in SS13 ended their hopes of a Monte win but they will return on Sunday morning in 16th overall looking for consolation points.

Neuville said: “We started this morning knowing that Sébastien would be pushing hard, so we responded to that confidently with a stage win. Our lead was up to one minute so we took a strategic decision at the start of the afternoon loop to play safe on tyre choice. We lost a bit of time but we were still in control. In the final stage, I felt comfortable. At the start of the stage, I played with the diffs to get into a good rhythm, and things felt fine. But we went wide into a third or fourth gear corner and there was a lot of gravel. We knew this from our gravel crew, but I must have been too quickly back on the throttle because the car went wide and we hit something like concrete. Immediately, we knew something had broken so we had to stop and fix it. It was a small mistake. I am very disappointed, more so for the team to be honest because they’ve worked so hard. We wanted to bring home the win for all of them but unfortunately it’s not to be this time. The pace we have shown this weekend has been exceptional so let’s see what we can salvage on Sunday.”

Finding the Positives

Despite the disappointing end to Saturday, Hyundai Motorsport will head into Sunday’s final stages in a positive frame of mind. Having led the rally by a significant margin, the team will now aim for a trouble-free conclusion to the rally, and to open its points tally for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Today has been classic Monte in many way. We’ve had highs and lows, challenging conditions, tough tyre choices, and stages that have caught many crews by surprise. It’s obviously very disappointing to lose such a commanding lead, but that’s rallying. We have shown what we are capable of with our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We have to pick ourselves up to try and salvage some points from this rally. Our team has worked hard to get the cars ready for the finale, so let’s see if we can fight for a few more stage wins on Sunday.”

Sunday at a Glance

The final day of Rallye Monte-Carlo includes four special stages run over a distance of 53.72km.

The itinerary comprises a repeated loop of two stages – the short 5.50km Luceram – Col St. Roch and the longer 21.36km La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava tests.

There will be no service on Sunday, just a tyre fitting zone to start the day, so crews will have to take extra care and attention as the rally reaches its thrilling finale.

The final stage, SS17, will act as the Power Stage with 2017 regulations offering Championship points down to fifth position instead of just the top-three as in previous seasons.


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