Hyundai Motorsport celebrates double podium in Rally de Portugal
Neuville finished just 15.6s behind rally winner Sébastien Ogier
Hyundai Motorsport has claimed its second double podium of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo completing Rally de Portugal in second and third positions respectively.
The result fulfils Hyundai Motorsport’s pre-rally objectives in style, securing the team its first-ever Portuguese podium finish. It is the sixth time in the team’s history where it has had two crews on the podium and continues its run of 2017 top-three finishes after third in Mexico, a 1-3 in Corsica and victory at the previous round in Argentina.
All three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews registered stage wins this weekend with Hayden Paddon and Neuville notching up four apiece, with Sordo also taking one. It is the first rally this season where all crews have achieved the feat and represents one of the team’s most successful rallies to date in terms of stage wins with nine in total.
Starting Sunday’s final four stages, including two attempts at the legendary Fafe jump, Neuville and Sordo set about defending their positions. Paddon, on the other hand, having suffered technical issues on Friday and Saturday, went about showing his true credentials with some impressive times.
Neuville could do little to reduce the gap to eventual winner Sébastien Ogier, but finished the rally less than 16 seconds behind the reigning World Champion. The Belgian continued his unbroken run of Power Stage points finishes, taking second in the concluding Fafe stage to score a total of 22 points.
With today’s result, Hyundai Motorsport maintains second in the Manufacturer’s Championship on 173 points and keeps up the pressure on leaders M-Sport, who are 26 points ahead on 199. Neuville, meanwhile, moves up into second place in the Drivers’ Championship, breaking through the 100-point barrier to 106 after six rounds of the season.
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
After a closely fought but challenging opening day, Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul regained confidence on Saturday’s itinerary to move into the podium battle. From there, the Corsica and Argentina victors enjoyed a clean run to second. It is their fourth podium in a row this season and second in the Power Stage continues their unchallenged streak of PS points this season.
Neuville said: “We had a good, clean Power Stage to end our rally in a positive manner. We have struggled a bit with the rear of the car this weekend, which has prevented us from challenging Ogier and M-Sport for the win more strongly. They delivered a great performance here, which we couldn’t match. Still, after two wins I am pleased to finish second as well as taking another good haul of Power Stage points. That has been very important for my position in the Drivers’ Championship, moving now into second place behind Ogier. Also, from a team point of view, with Dani in third, we have added more points to the team’s standings, so it’s been a valuable and successful weekend. Thanks to the team for their efforts, we can now look ahead to Sardinia, where we were victorious last season, in a very positive frame of mind.”
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
For Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí, third place in Portugal marks their first gravel podium for Hyundai Motorsport after previous success on tarmac and the mixed surface Spanish event. It’s their sixth top-three in total with the team. Despite some struggles over the weekend, they were able to fend off challenges from some strong opposition to score third place.
Sordo said: “I am really happy with this podium result. I was a bit disappointed on Saturday not to be able to fight closer to the front, but Sébastien and Thierry were just too fast. It left me a bit too far away to attack more on today’s stages so I was just focused on finishing third and taking the podium. It was a fun and enjoyable weekend. The support of the spectators was incredible and it was fantastic to see so many people lining the stages. Big thanks to everyone who has cheered us on, and to everyone in the team for this great result.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Rally de Portugal has proven to be a question of ‘what if’ for Paddon and co-driver Seb Marshall. The Anglo-Kiwi partnership picked up four stage wins over the weekend and were vying for the lead of the rally on Friday before electrics issues hampered their progress. Further trouble with their steering rack on Saturday meant they started today determined to show their real pace, which they certainly did.
Paddon commented: “First of all, I’d like to say big thanks to our team for their hard work. It’s been a frustrating one at times but they have never given up. In fact, they only dig deeper with each rally so we are all aiming to conquer this challenge together. We wanted to use these final stages of the rally to show what we could accomplish, and the fact we could set more stage wins only reinforced what might have been without our troubles. The Power Stage was fun. As first on the road, we had to do a lot of cleaning, more than we expected, but I enjoyed it. Seb has done an amazing job in his first time in the car. We could’ve been fighting for the win here this weekend but there are some encouraging signs for the future.”
Following two consecutive victories, Hyundai Motorsport recalibrated its targets for Portugal, where it had never previously scored a podium finish. With each season, the team has edged closer and closer so today’s second and third positions continue that trend. The team now has 26 individual WRC podiums in its history, and has taken a top-three finish in 12 of the 13 rally events on the calendar.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “We have achieved our objectives this weekend with two of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC cars on the podium. Congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas, Dani and Marc on a good job this weekend. When Sébastien Ogier starts the final day with a 16-second advantage, you know it is going to be an easy gap for him to manage. We set about securing our second and third places, which the crews did comfortably, while also putting on a nice show for the many thousands of fans out on the stages. Hayden and Seb showed great pace this morning, too, with two stages wins to add to their collection from this weekend. It’s disappointing that we experienced two separate problems with their car over the weekend, which we need to investigate more deeply. We have lacked a bit of performance compared to our nearest rivals this weekend, but we can be satisfied to take our first Portuguese podiums. Sardinia will offer another challenge but we have happy memories from last season, which we will definitely want to repeat!”
The seventh round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship will be held on the island of Sardinia, where Hyundai Motorsport was victorious twelve months ago.
Rally Italia Sardegna sees the Championship move into its second half with Hyundai Motorsport determined to register more wins and podiums with its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
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