Hyundai Motorsport leaves Sweden rueing missed opportunity
The team missed out on another victory fight
Hyundai Motorsport has completed the second round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a fourth-placed finish for Dani Sordo and Power Stage points for Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon.
The team started Sunday knowing that it had once again missed out on an opportunity to push for the outright victory with the competitive Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. However, there was clear intent from all crews to salvage something from a challenging weekend.
Sunday morning’s final three stages included a repeat of the 21.19km Likenäs test followed by the 16.43km Torsby Power Stage, which was first run on Friday afternoon in the dark. The Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team drivers set about finishing the rally on a positive note, with the final stage offering a chance to pick up a handful of points.
Crew Notes: Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
For Sordo and co-driver Marc Martí, with the gap to the podium positions too significant, the objective on Sunday was to secure fourth place. Having taken a stage win on Saturday evening, they used that momentum to set a top-three time in the opening run of Likenäs. They just missed out on Power Stage points but the Spaniards achieved their goal; increasing the gap over fifth-placed Craig Breen.
Sordo said: “I have enjoyed this rally a lot, with some very fast and breath-taking stages. We knew our target this morning was to take fourth place, and pick up the important points of the Championship, so we took it carefully. These stages in Sweden are tricky and slippery, so we had to be cautious not to make any mistakes. The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC has been a pleasure to drive, very competitive and with good pace. We need to take the consistency from Monte-Carlo and Sweden and build on this for Mexico, where I will be aiming for the podium.”
Crew Notes: Paddon/Kennard (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
The Kiwi crew of Paddon and Kennard used Sunday’s stages to further their understanding and feeling in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. After difficulties on Friday and Saturday, they had been unable to develop a rhythm so Sunday was important for them to try some new ideas, and to build confidence. Scoring top-five times in all three stages showed clear signs of improvement, with a consolatory Power Stage point for their efforts.
Paddon said: “That was most certainly not the easiest of weekends but getting to the finish feels like a release of pressure. Things just didn’t click for us 100% but we used this morning to try a few things and there are definitely things we can learn for future rallies. We gave it a bit of a push in the Power Stage and finishing P7 gives us some points to kick-start our Championship. I am positive about this car and the direction we are heading, so it’s a case of onwards and upwards.”
Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul set about putting the huge disappointment of Saturday evening behind them with a focus on scoring Power Stage points. They saved their tyres during the opening stages in order to give maximum attack on the Torsby test. Setting the provisional fastest time, the duo had to concede to reigning Champion Sébastien Ogier and eventual rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala, but scored three important points.
Neuville said: “We gave it everything in the final stage but we had to settle for three points instead of the five we wanted. It was a very close-run stage with just 1.5-seconds separating the top-three. The result overall is of course a big source of frustration. I feel disappointed for the whole team that we lost the lead of the rally for a small driving mistake. It was another issue with big consequences for the Championship. I am sure that our approach to this rally was correct, until our misfortune, however our potential is clear and we have to focus on moving forward positively. .”
Putting the Pieces Together
It may not have been the start to the 2017 season that Hyundai Motorsport was expecting but it takes comfort from the performance of its Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. Six more stage wins in Sweden, in addition to the seven in Monte-Carlo, shows that the team is the most competitive it has ever been, even if the results don’t reflect that so far.
Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “I am sure we will look back on these two opening rounds of the season as character-building for our team. There’s no such thing as guaranteed results so we have to work doubly hard to show what we are capable of. We have crews who have all shown their ability to fight for stage wins, we have a car, the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC that has demonstrated its potential to win WRC events, and we have the fighting spirit we need to succeed. The pieces of the puzzle are there, we just need a turnaround in fortunes – hopefully that will start in Mexico. On behalf of everyone at Hyundai Motorsport, I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Toyota for an historic win this weekend. If one thing is clear after two rounds, the WRC is in great health with plenty of competition. That’s the one real positive we take away from Sweden.”
Rally Mexico is next up for the WRC, taking place from 9-12 March 2017. The scene of Hyundai Motorsport’s maiden podium in 2014 will offer happy memories as the team seeks to move on from two disappointing rally results.
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